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Excerpt from BBC News, UK

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Sunday, August 9, 1998 Published at 10:16  GMT 11:16 UK

UK on brink of heroin  'disaster'

Users are smoking the drug and injecting it

The UK is heading for a heroin "disaster" unless greater priority is given to drug treatment programmes, a  leading addiction expert has warned.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Amal Beaini appealed to the government to put more  resources into effective ways of curing heroin addiction.

Dr Beaini, who runs a number of detoxification clinics in London and Yorkshire, said he was shocked by a Home Office report that said the UK could be on the brink of a heroin epidemic involving children as young as 10.

According to the report, most new heroin users are aged 18 to 35, but a  significant number are between 14 and 16.

In some areas, children between 10 and 12 have even been trying the drug.

Heroin use is spreading out of inner cities across the country due to cheap  and easily available supplies, said the report.

Users are both smoking the drug and injecting it.

Co-ordinated approach

"This is a horrifying new trend. Many of these youngsters are fooled into  thinking heroin is just another recreational drug, but it's not," said Dr Beaini.

"With heroin it's impossible just to experiment and people who do try it can be hooked after six weeks."

He said the Department of Health, the Home Office and the Royal College of Psychiatrists should work together to prevent a heroin "disaster".

He called for a co-ordinated approach to the problem which would include publicly funded detoxification programmes that really worked.

Current methods usually rely on attempting to switch addicts to the heroin substitute methadone.

However, many patients cannot tolerate the withdrawal symptoms and drop out.

Children as young as 10 are  using heroin

Dr Beaini has developed a  non-methadone programme, called Detox 5, which is said to avoid most of the "cold turkey" symptoms.

Patients are sedated and given medication to tackle physical withdrawal  symptoms such as muscle cramps and diarrhoea.

A non-addictive, opiate-blocking drug, naltrexone, is then used to flush the  remaining heroin out of the body.

After five days, 99% of patients leave the clinic free of opiates, Dr Beaini claimed.

But the £2,300 treatment usually has to be paid for privately.

'Woefully inadequate'

Roger Howard, chief executive of the Standing Conference on Drug Abuse, a  charity which represents drug agencies, said: "We know that on average people  are having to wait 10 to 14 weeks to get access to treatment programmes.

"Generally most people would say the level of resources in the NHS and also through community care have been woefully inadequate."

However, he said there were indications that the government was beginning to realise the extent of the problem.


Dr Amal Beaini has also featured on the Channel 5 documentary series "Going Cold Turkey" and has worked on daytime TV such as the Jeremy Kyle Show