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Rx Drugs - The Liverpool, England method

Transciption of CBS-TV Program, 60 Minutes. Aired Sunday, December 27, 1992

Titled: Rx Drugs

By: Ed Bradley


Ed:       Can Britain teach us anything about dealing with drugs?  That  
          remains to be seen.  But one thing seems certain, there is     
          little or nothing we can teach them.  They tried our hard line 
          methods back in the 70's and 80's and all they got for their   
          trouble was more drugs, more crime, and more addicts.  So they 
          went back to their old way of letting doctors prescribe        
          whatever drug a particular addict was hooked on.  Does it      
          work?  If they're ever going to know, Liverpool, where drugs   
          are out of control is the place to find out.                    

Ed:       This is a gram of 100% pure heroin, it is pharmaceutically     
          prepared.  On the streets it would be cut 10 to 15 times and   
          sell for about $2,000.  But take it away from the black        
          market, make it legal, and heroin is a pretty cheap drug.  The 
          British National Health Service (NHS) pays about $10.00 for    
          this gram of heroin.  And for an addict with a prescription,   
          it is free.                                                     

Ed:       In Britain, doctors who hold a special license from the        
          government are allowed to prescribe hard drugs to addicts.     
          Dr. John Marks is psychiatrist who runs an addiction clinic    
          just outside of Liverpool and has been prescribing heroin for  

Dr.       If a drug taker is determined to continue their drug use,      
Marks:    treating them is an expensive waste of time... and, really,     
          the choices that I am being offered and society is being       
          offered, is drugs from the clinic or drugs from the Mafia.     

Ed:       To get drugs from the clinic rather than the Mafia, addicts    
          have to take a urine test to prove they are taking the drug    
          they say they are.  And unlike most other addiction clinics    
          where you have to say you want to kick the habit before        
          they'll take you in, addicts here have to convince Dr. Marks,  
          a nurse and a social worker they intend to stay on drugs come  
          what may.                                                       
          But does Dr. Marks try to cure people?                          

Dr.       Cure people?  Nobody can.  Regardless of whether you stick     
Marks:    them in prison, put them in mental hospitals and give them      
          shock treatment, we have done all these things, put them in a  
          nice rehab center away in the country, give them a nice social 
          worker and pat them on the head, give them drugs, give them no 
          drugs, does not matter what you do.   5% per annum, 1 in 20 per 
          year, get off spontaneously.   Compound interested up that      
          reaches about 50% (50/50) after ten years are off drugs.  They 
          seem to mature out of addiction regardless of any intervention 
          in the interim but you can keep them alive and healthy and     
          legal during that 10 years, if you so wish to.                  

Ed:       By giving them drugs?                                           

Dr.       It doesn't get them off drugs, it doesn't prolong their        
Marks:    addiction, either.  But it stops them offending, it keeps them 
          healthy and it keeps them alive.                                

Ed:       That's exactly what happened to Julia Scott.   Although she     
          doesn't look it, Julia is a heroin addict.  For the last three 
          years the heroin she injects every day comes from a            
          prescription.  Before, she had to feed her habit by working as 
          a prostitute, a vicious circle that led her to use more heroin 
          to cope with that life.                                         

Julia:    Once you get in that circle you can't get out.  I didn't think 
          I was ever going to get out.                                    

Ed:       But once you got the prescription?                              

Julia:    I stopped straight away.                                        

Ed:       Never went back?                                                

Julia:    No, never.  I went back once just to see and I was almost       
          physically sick just to see those girls doing what I used to   

Ed:       Julia says she's now able to have normal relation, to hold     
          down a job as a waitress and to care for her 3 year old        
          daughter.  Without the prescription, where do you think you    
          would be?                                                       

Julia:    I would probably be dead now.                                   

Ed:       Once, they have gotten their prescriptions, addicts must show  
          up for regular meetings to show that they are staying healthy  
          and free from crime.  But how can anyone be healthy if they    
          are taking a drug like heroin?                                  

Alan      Pure heroin is not dangerous.  We have people on massive doses 
Perry:    of heroin.                                                      

Ed:       Alan Perry is a former Drug Information Officer for the local  
          Health Authority and now a counselor at the clinic.  So how    
          come we see so much damage caused by heroin?                    

Alan:     The heroin that is causing that damage, is not causing damage  
          because of the heroin in it, it is causing damage because of   
          the bread dust, coffee, crushed bleach crystals, anything that 
          causes the harm and if heroin is 90% adulterated that means    
          only 10% is heroin, the rest is rubbish, and if you inject     
          cement into your veins, you don't have to be a medical expert  
          to work it out, that's going to cause harm.                     

Ed:       Many at the clinic like George still suffer from the damage    
          caused by street drugs.  Alan Perry believes you can't         
          prescribe clean drugs and needles to addicts without teaching  
          them how to use them.                                           

Alan:     You know the major causes of ill health to drug injectors is    
          not even the dirty drugs they take, it is their bad technique. 
           Not knowing how to do it.   In America I have seen addicts     
          missing legs and arms and that is through bad technique.  So   
          we show people how to, not how to inject safely, but how to    
          inject less dangerously.  We have to be clear about that, you  
          have stoned people sticking needles in themselves in a         
          dangerous activity.  The strategy is called "harm               

Ed:       George's legs have ulcerate and the veins have collapsed.  To  
          inject he must use a vein in his groin that is dangerously     
          close to an artery.                                             

Alan:     When you get in there, do you get any sharp pains?              

George:   No.                                                             

Alan:     If you hit an artery how would you recognize it?                

George:   By me head hitting the ceiling.                                 

Ed:       In the 70's the British were not content with minimizing the   
          harm of drug abuse.  They adopted the American policy of       
          trying to stamp it out all together.  Prescription drugs were  
          no longer widely available.   Addicts who couldn't kick the     
          habit had to find illegal sources.                              
          The results:  By the end of the 80's drug addiction in Britain 
          had tripled.  In Liverpool there was so much heroin around, it 
          was known as "smack city".  And then came an even greater      
          More than anything else, it has been the threat of AIDS that   
          has persuaded the British to return to their old policy of     
          maintaining addicts on the drug of their choice.                
          In New York, it is estimated that more than half those who     
          inject drugs have contracted the AIDS virus through swapping   
          contaminated needles.  Here in Liverpool, the comparable       
          number, the number of known addicts infected, is less than one 
          In an effort to get addicts away from injecting, Liverpool     
          pharmacist Jeremy Clitherow has developed what he called       
          Heroin Reefers.  They are regular cigarettes with heroin in    
          them.  "Whatever you feel about smoking," he says, "these      
          cigarettes hold fewer risks than needles for both the addicts  
          and the community.                                              

Jeremy:   S, we then use this (hypodermic syringe) to put in a known      
          volume of pharmaceutical heroin into the patient's cigarette.  
          And, there we are, one heroin reefer containing exactly 60 mgs 
          of pharmaceutical heroin.                                       

Ed:       So, that, the National Health Service will pay for the heroin  
          but not the cigarettes?                                         

jeremy:   Oh, Yes,, of course, its the patients own cigarettes but with   
          the National Health Service Prescription in it.                 

Ed:       Addicts pick up their prescriptions twice a week from his      
          neighborhood pharmacy.  And how does this affect his other     

Jeremy:   The patient who comes in to pick up his prescription of heroin 
          in the form of reefers would be indistinguishable from a       
          patient who picks any other medication.  The prescription is   
          ready and waiting and they pick it up just as they would pick  
          up their aspirin or bandages.                                   

Ed:       But with all these drugs available to most people plus the     
          hard drugs that you have here, what's your security like?      

Jeremy:   Like Fort Knox.  But we keep minimal stocks.  We buy the stuff 
          in regularly, frequently.   What comes in, goes out.             

Ed:       And heroin isn't the only stuff to come in and out of here.    
          Clitherow also sells prescriptions for cocaine and that is     
          100% per free base cocaine.   In other words, crack.             

Ed:       So, in fact, when you are putting cocaine in here you are      
          actually making crack cigarettes?                               

Jeremy:   Yes.                                                            

Ed:       In America that has a very negative connotation, but not for   

Jeremy:   Depends on which way you look at it.  If they continue to buy   
          on the street, whether it is heroin, methadone, crack, or      
          whatever, sooner or later they will suffer from the            
          merchandise they are buying.   I want to bring them into        
          contact with the system and let them get their drug of choice, 
          if the physician agrees and prescribes it in a form which      
          won't cause their health such awful deterioration.              

Ed:       (to Dr. Marks)  And you don't have any problem giving people   
          injectable cocaine or cocaine cigarettes?                       

Dr.       No, not in principle.  There are patients for whome I have     
Marks:    prescribed cocaine, and to whom I have then stopped             
          prescribing cocaine because their lives did not stabilize.     
          They continue to be thieves or whatever.  But, there are       
          equally many more to whom we have prescribed cocaine, who have 
          then settled into regular sensible lives.                       

Ed:       Michael Lythgoe is one who has settled into a regular sensible 
          life on cocaine.  He has a prescription from Dr. Marks for     
          both cocaine spray and the cocaine cigarettes. Before he got   
          that prescription, the cocaine he bought on the street cost    
          him nearly $1,000 a week, which at first he managed to take    
          from his own business, but it wasn't long before it cost him   
          much more than that.                                            
          .... so you lost your business, you lost your wife, you lost   
          your kids and the house but you kept going after the cocaine?  

Michael:  Yes, that is what addiction is, that is the very nature of      
          addiction, if the fact that one is virtually chemically and    
          physically forced to continue that way.                         

Ed:       Now, after two years of controlled use on prescription drugs,  
          Mike has voluntarily reduced his does, he has got himself a    
          regular job with a trucking company and is slowing putting his 
          life back together.                                             

Ed:       Where do you think you would be now if Dr. Marks had not given 
          you a prescription for cocaine?                                 

Michael:  I wouldn't be here talking to you.  And you probably wouldn't   
          be interested in talking to me either.  I'd be on the street.  

Ed:       Dr. Marks, how would you reply to critics who say that you are 
          nothing more than a legalized dealer, a pusher?                 

Dr.       I'd agree.  That is what the State of England arranges.  That  
Marks:    there is a legal controlled supply of drugs.  The whole         
          concept behind that is control.                                 

Ed:       And there are signst that control is working.   Within the area 
          of the clinic, Alan Perry says, the police have reported a     
          significant drop in drug related crime and since addicts don't 
          have to deal anymore to support their habit, they're not       
          recruiting new customers.  So, far fewer new people are being  
          turned on to drugs.                                             

Ed:       What about dealers around the area of the clinic?               

Alan:     There are not any around the clinic.                            

Ed:       You have taken away their business?                             

Alan:     Exactly, there is no business there, the scene is               
          disappearing.  So, if you want to get really into a problem    
          whih presumably all societies do, there are ways of doing it.  
          But you have to counter your own moral and political           

Ed:       (to Julia)  What can you say to people who would ask why give  
          addicts what they want?  Why give them drugs?                   

Julia:    So they can live, to have a chance to live like everyone else   
          does.  No one would hesitate to give other sort of maintaining 
          drugs to diabetics.  Diabetics have insulin, in my mind it is  
          no different, it is the same.   I need heroin to live.          


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