Drug Misuse: Health Risks - 1 Dec 1994

House of Lords (Hansard, vol. 559, cols. 741-47)

5.51 pm.

Lord McNair: My Lords, I am pleased that the Government have given us a chance to debate two very important subjects. But I do rather feel that today we are debating two separate issues. AIDS and HIv are part of the drugs problem, and the spread of AIDS and HIV among drug addicts is only one of many health problems which drug addicts face.

I can find much to agree with in the Green Paper. I was particularly heartened by the descriptions of some of the local initiatives and the success that they are having in rebuilding the confidence and sense of security of some communities which are threatened by the drug culture. I wonder whether those projects involved a lot of money being put into a small area, or whether the sort of cost for the projects could be borne by the local authority, which may have several such areas within its boundaries. I am also pleased to see that the slightly secretive Cabinet sub-committee of three years ago has blossomed into full-blown interdepartmental collaboration, which is very welcome. In particular, I welcome the intention to put more money into drug education - although, bearing in mind the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, to whom I always listen with great respect on the matter of drugs. We should put more money into drug education; but it is important to evaluate different kinds of drug education and to see what works and what - does not work.

I should like to make a point about the health of those suffering from HIV and AIDS. Over the past couple of years I have become very interested in the possible benefits of treating these conditions by means of the oxygen therapies. This is a fairly technical matter but it is timely that it should be aired in this House. The oxygen therapies are the various ways of using oxygen as a bactericide and viricide. They comprise treatment with hydrogen peroxide, orally or intravenously, and treatment with ozone. by infusion into the blood either intravenously or by removing a small quantity of blood, passing the ozone through it and then returning it to the body. I have met twice with the noble Baroness the Minister, once in 1993 and once last summer, to attempt to persuade the Government to provide funds for a proper investigation into the efficacy of treating AIDS and HIV with hydrogen peroxide. It would be appropriate also for them to investigate the various forms of ozone.

Before I move to the various political pressures on this endeavour, I should like to explain the theory behind the use of hydrogen peroxide and ozone and their effectiveness against viruses and bacteria. It seems that these groups of organisms evolved during a time in Earth's history when there was much less oxygen in the atmosphere than occurs naturally at present. I say "naturally" because in polluted urban environments the figure can be reduced to as low as 11 per cent. In nature, oxygen forms about 20 per cent of the content of the atmosphere. The effect of adding oxygen to the bloodstream in these ways is to create an oxygen-rich environment which is hostile to viruses and bacteria. The additional oxygen oxidises the foreign proteins that it encounters, which form the cell walls and fragments of the micro-organism. But in the doses recommended by doctors with experience in this field it does not attack the body's own proteins.

The effect that I am describing is similar to, but far greater than, the effect of lots of exercise, fresh air, and fresh fruit and vegetables, which also contain hydrogen peroxide. So, in fact, do our bodies. Hydrogen peroxide is a naturally occurring body product used by the white blood cells to destroy pathogens.

Originating in Germany in the 19th century, oxygen therapies are now used in many countries as an effective treatment for AIDS sufferers, many thousands of whom have had their death sentences reversed by these treatments. If I am right, how is it that what I am saying is probably new to most of your Lordships? If I am right, why is anyone still dying of AIDS?

The meetings that I mentioned with the Minister filled me with despair. Hydrogen peroxide is, as I have pointed out, a naturally occurring body product. It is also produced very cheaply by means of a very simple chemical process. The literature is in the public domain and is available to anyone who wants to know. Incidentally, there is no case of anyone being harmed by the sort of doses that are currently advocated by experienced practitioners. I should add that, for a condition as serious as AIDS, treatment by a qualified medical person with experience of oxygen therapies is obviously essential.

Hydrogen peroxide is what is known in the drug trade and in the Department of Health as an "orphan drug". What is an orphan drug? It is a product that might be of great benefit to mankind but which does not have the opportunity to prove itself for one reason and one reason only; namely, there is no money in it. I am not being fanciful or extreme in saying that that is what I and colleagues who are interested in this matter were told by Health Department officials at both meetings.

One medically qualified official was incredulous that a product could be so beneficial and yet not have its medical benefit matched by commensurate commercial opportunity. That is incredible. She told us that, if it was so good, it must be commercially viable to spend the 100,000 plus that is required for clinical trials. The fact is that it is not. One company that produces hydrogen peroxide has calculated that it would take 18 years to recoup the investment incurred doing the clinical trial.

The pharmaceutical industry spends millions of pounds every year on public relations. One company even took the trouble to send me the report of a trial that it had carried out to prove that wholemeal bread was no better than soggy white bread. it is not only that there is no money to be made following successful clinical trials; the main problem, I submit, is that the legal drug industry is worried that something as cheap as hydrogen peroxide would cut into profits currently earned from products that would be rendered unnecessary if it were properly investigated and found to be effective.

In my view, the evidence in favour is so compelling that, in refusing to investigate the possibilities for saving lives and improving the health of AIDS and HIV sufferers, the Government bear a heavy responsibility for the continuing deaths and reduced quality of life of these patients. Any investigation must include medically qualified people who have experience of these treatments. The noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, will be aware that the European authorities are clamping down on hydrogen peroxide products in the dental profession. I rather suspect that that is coming from the same source as other restrictions on natural health products.

We may be in a situation where the medical profession dares not investigate this matter properly because the political implications of having failed to do so earlier are too horrible to contemplate. I can only say to the Minister that I am sure that people who are affected or who have been affected by the loss of friends or relatives will welcome any initiative which saves lives in the future.

Before I leave the specific problem of AIDS and HIV, there is one final matter that I should like to mention. The question of the re-use and sharing of hypodermic syringes is a very important issue. I have been told that all hypodermics are marked with a warning that they should be used only once. If that is true, this, for people whose judgment has been impaired by previous drug use on the present imperative of "getting a fix", will have the same effect as the government health warning has on those of your Lordships who are smokers.

Yet it is very simple to produce syringes that are impossible to use for a second time. Several patents have been taken out for such syringes. My information is that after the retooling costs the cost per syringe is not significantly more than for existing syringes. You would think that manufacturers would see the commercial benefit of non-reusable syringes. Why has the Government not made it illegal to sell, produce or import reusable syringes?

I said at the beginning that I regarded today's debate as really two debates and the second matter I want to talk about is another aspect of the drugs issue relating to the health of drug users. I hesitate to use the word "misusers" because the distinction between legal and illegal drugs has become blurred over the past century or so. Not only are prescription drugs stolen and traded by addicts, but several of the major street drugs started life as prescription drugs. I am thinking here of heroin, cocaine, morphine, amphetamines and LSD which were all originally prescription drugs.

I want to talk about one aspect of rehabilitation, leaving it to others to go into details about what one speaker called "the interstices of policy". I want to look at one particular aspect of which I have some experience, having worked for a time with former drug addicts at a rehabilitation centre which uses the Narconon programme, developed by the American humanitarian and philosopher Mr. Ron Hubbard. Almost certainly, his single most important contribution to the science of drug rehabilitation was the discovery that drug residues lodge and persist in the fatty tissues of the body and re-stimulate the craving which a person has for his drugs. Other pollutants such as PCBs also remain in the body in that way.

The detoxification period at a rehabilitation centre using the Narconon programme is followed by a number of days, a part of each day being spent on a programme of exercise, sauna and food supplemented by vitamins, minerals and oils. It has now been established beyond all doubt that that regimen enables the body to eliminate the drug and other residues from the tissues and so eliminate the physical source of any continued craving. The physical aspect is by no means the whole story and the persons undergoing the programme will also examine in detail the ethical basis of their lives, the way they relate to others and the original reason why they started taking drugs.

The sauna programme is carried out under the general supervision of a medical doctor, who examines all participants before they start. It has also been used to good effect by medical doctors who specialise in treating patients whose bodies have been contaminated by industrial chemicals such as dioxin and PCBs.

Recently, technical advances in equipment used in measuring small concentrations of chemicals in sweat and urine have made it possible to monitor the amounts which are released from the body during the sauna programme. It has also been found that, having completed the programme, the levels of drugs or unwanted chemicals in the body continue to reduce, as, once mobilised, they continue to be released.

I suggest that any drug rehabilitation method or programme which does not use the sauna programme faces an uphill struggle in the battle to flee drug addicts from their addiction.

The importance of food supplements in the treatment of addiction is shown by the experience of Narconon staff, who found that every person coming in with a drug problem was deficient to some degree in certain vitamins and minerals. Those deficiencies themselves seem to be the root of many personality and emotional difficulties that these individuals experience and, when remedied, there is immediate improvement in their viewpoint on life. For example, it appears that the very experience of "getting high" on any drug, whether it be alcohol, stimulants, depressants, barbiturates, hallucinogenics or whatever, depletes vitamin B1 significantly, vitamin B3, vitamin C, calcium and magnesium, as well as many others in varying amounts. When large supplementation of those is administered either orally or intravenously to new arrivals, whether in withdrawal or having taken drugs, just recently, their ability to reason and to view their surroundings and problems more calmly - in other words to function as human beings - shows rapid improvement. All the participants are examined by highly competent and up-to-date nutritional specialists.

I recall a conversation that I had some months ago with the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, about whether it is possible to cure drug and alcohol addiction. It may be an almost philosophical point, because one could say that, if someone is not using a drug, then he is cured. But the noble Lord's viewpoint was very definitely that there is no cure. The view of people with experience at Narconon is that there is a cure. When I said that I knew people who had been through the Narconon programme and were cured, he said that in that case they cannot have been addicts. I found that a rather circular piece of logic.

I know that the noble Lord helps to promote the Minnesota Method, based on the twelve steps. I know that it does a lot of good for a huge number of people. But I have a philosophical disagreement with it; namely, that the first of the twelve steps states that one is powerless in the face of one's addiction; in other words, that there is no cure. That is simply not true, and especially not true if one is able to remove the drug residues from the body, which is exactly what is achieved by the Narconon sauna programme. As I have already explained, that process is now quite simple to measure.

The Government are interested in value for money. Narconon unquestionably has the best long-term success rate of any rehabilitation programme in the world. The reason, apart from the skill and dedication of the staff, is the sauna programme. I am happy to be able to announce that Narconon is now able and prepared to train other rehabilitation professionals to deliver either the whole Narconon programme or just the sauna detoxification part of it, to improve the effectiveness of their work.

As part of the Government's ongoing evaluation of different rehabilitation programmes, the Minister may like to study the results of the many Narconon centres throughout Europe, including the one in the south of England. She will find them unsurpassed. She will find that there is a cure for addiction and that it is available and achievable. There is, in fact, no need for anyone who wants to be cured of his addiction to be unable to be so. The word is getting around the drug taking community: "If you really want to get off drugs, go to Narconon." That is not just because of the sauna detox. Former addicts whom I have met at Narconon say that there is a qualitative difference from many other rehabs in the way they are treated as individuals. They are never invalidated; no one-evaluates their experience for them; they are enabled to find their own way out of their problems.

I have focused quite deliberately on the one rehabilitation programme with which I am familiar. We have an immense problem with drug-taking and I have spoken about one very effective solution to one aspect of the problem. I do not mean to discount the enormously valuable and dedicated work done by those who work in rehabilitation centres up and down the country.

I end by saying that I wish the Government well with their co-ordinated strategy. Any contribution that I or Narconon can make to that success will be gladly made.

Back to start

Last updated 15 May 1997

Page maintained by Martin Poulter (plmlp@mail.bris.ac.uk)