STAFF REPORTER IT is calculated that there are over 5'000 people addicted to heroin in the Islands, said the Medical Society for Addiction in the Balearics (SMAIB) yesterday.

At a conference on Addiction being held in Palma, SMAIB said that heroin is responsible for every seven out of 10 drug-related deaths and for 60 percent of all addicts who start rehabilitation programmes in the region. The Society said that the presence of the drug in illegal markets is on the increase and it is enjoying new found levels of popularity amongst consumers. With its resurgence, said SMAIB, countries of the European Union are reporting higher numbers of drug-related deaths and more people are seeking help from addiction centres. So-called “multiple” consumption of heroin is being accompanied by new ways of taking the drug such as injecting it, sniffing or smoking. The 70 experts attending yesterday's conference agreed on the urgency of finding new ways to treat addicts. In the Balearics, methadone is almost the only alternative to those who have become heroin-dependent and for many, it is not the answer. The conference highlighted the need to provide other pharmaceutical products for addicts by way of experimentation such as buprenorfina-naloxona which has had encouraging results. SMAIB is keen to see this product available for a minimum amount on the national health service (Ib-Salut in the Balearics). It also wants to promote social programmes on an international scale which embrace, as opposed to marginalise, victims of addiction.