European drug legalizers have long touted the merits of heroin giveaways.

Now, those same people want to give heroin to addicts in Baltimore - a city where almost half of all adults arrested test positive for opiates. If Baltimore's "pilot" program is declared a "success," expect heroin giveaways to spread across America.Heroin giveaways are an extension of the "harm reduction" philosophy that says drug use cannot be eliminated, so society should try to "reduce the harm" it causes. The best known "harm reduction" programs are needle exchanges. Both programs pave the way for drug legalization and increased drug use, and the certain deaths of many addicts.

The Baltimore Sun quoted that city's health commissioner, Peter Beilenson, who said, "It will be politically difficult, but I think it's going to happen." He claims that heroin "maintenance" - a euphemism for giving pharmaceutical-grade heroin to addicts in an effort to improve their physical and social well-being - "would be carefully controlled by health-care providers."

Beilenson's announcement comes on the heels of a June 6 New York City seminar promoting heroin for "medical" reasons. Billionaire George Soros, the nation's leading drug legalizer, was the primary event sponsor. Seminar attendee David Vlahov, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore, is involved in planning the nation's first heroin program.

At the New York heroin seminar, Vlahov and Beilenson were impressed by Switzerland's recent three-year study. Vlahov said that "heroin maintenance is an outreach strategy to bring people into the (treatment) system."

Beilenson claims that a U.S. version of the Swiss program would help most addicts become drug-free and reduce both crime and homelessness. The Swiss heroin experiment began in 1994. The project, which officially ended in December 1996, involved 1,146 addicts who paid nominal fees for up to three injections a day to determine whether giving heroin to addicts could "normalize" their lives.

In July 1997, the Swiss government labeled the experiment a "suc-cess."

The Swiss project was scientifically flawed. Neither the number of addicts nor the mix of participants receiving heroin, morphine or methadone was held constant. The initial goal of abstinence was abandoned in favor of a "better understanding of heroin addiction." Prison inmates and mental patients were added midway through the project. Most of the new heroin "patients" (61 percent) were taken from methadone programs (a synthetic opiate that blocks the effects of heroin), and 19 percent weren't even heroin addicts before the Swiss government started drug dealing.

Thomas Zeltner, the director of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health, participated in the New York heroin conference. He said that heroin maintenance is part of a "holistic approach" to solving the drug problem.

Zeltner does not believe a drug-free society is possible but admits that heroin projects are not a panacea and "may not work for other nations." It's not clear that heroin giveaways work for Switzerland. More Swiss addicts died while in the program than became drug-free.

Addicts' health improved not because they were given free dope but because they were provided routine health care, food and housing. Addicts' employment did rise for menial public service jobs, but so did welfare dependency.

Giving heroin to addicts is unethical and can result in euthanasia. Instead of embracing the tough love drug court approach of coercing addicts into life-saving treatment, "harm reductionists" want to keep judgment-impaired addicts in their deadly lifestyle until they die or quit by chance.

America should focus anti-drug efforts on a balanced model of enforcement, abstinence-based treatment and prevention.