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Swiss Voters Overwhelmingly Support Heroin Maintenance Program


November-December 1997

Voters in Switzerland on September 28 voted to reject a proposal that would have ended their government's policy of distributing pharmaceutical heroin to longtime addicts. The so-called "Youth Without Drugs" referendum was defeated overwhelming by 71% of Swiss voters (Associated Press, "Swiss Voters Back Heroin Plan," Washington Post, September 29, 1997, p. A22; "Swiss Back Heroin Project," New York Times, September 29, 1997, p. A4; "Swiss Drug Policy," USA Today, September 29, 1997, p. 10A; Elizabeth Olson, "Swiss Weigh Fate of Clinics Offering Legal Heroin," New York Times, September 28, 1997, p. A3).

Switzerland has been supplying about 1,100 addicts with pharmaceutical heroin as an experiment to reduce crime and disease. A three-year evaluation of the program released in July found the program to be a success (See "Swiss Heroin Maintenance Program Declared a Success," NewsBriefs, August 1997).

The Swiss vote drew negative responses from some major U.S. newspapers. The Dallas Morning News wrote, "`Just Say Yes' to heroin failed to live up to its billing in Britain, and it will likely disappoint Switzerland, too" (Editorial, "Swiss heroin distribution plan still looks misguided," Dallas Morning News, October 3, 1997).