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Swiss Heroin Maintenance Program Declared a Success


August 1997

After a three-year evaluation, Switzerland's state-distributed heroin maintenance program has been declared a success by law enforcement and health officials (Clare Nullis, "Swiss call heroin program a success," Boston Globe, July 11, 1997, p. A2; Associated Press, "Swiss call heroin giveaway program a success," Chicago Tribune (Southwest Edition), July 11, 1997, s. 1 p. 19; Clare Nullis, "Swiss heroin program cuts crime," Philadelphia Inquirer, July 11, 1997, p. A20).

The program provides daily doses of heroin to addicts at certified medical clinics and one prison. Swiss doctors administer the heroin for a $10 daily charge, which is waived for those addicts who cannot afford it. The country legally imported 440 pounds of heroin for the program, an action approved by the United Nations. During the three year time period 1,146 addicts were involved in the program.

When the program began three years ago, more than two-thirds of the addicts were involved in some form of criminal activity. An evaluation of the program by the World Health Organization shows that the number has now dropped to 3%. "I know of no other crime prevention program with such a big reduction in theft and other serious crimes," said Martin Killias of the Institute of Police Science and Criminology.

Felix Gutzwiller, M.D., a doctor involved with the program, told the Associated Press that the incidence of AIDS, hepatitis and other blood disorders dropped dramatically, and the number of deaths was cut in half. When the program began in 1994, Switzerland had an estimated 30,000 addicts.

The evaluation is available online at the Lindesmith Center at: