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Drug Dependency (Treatment)

Volume 400: debated on Wednesday 26 February 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether the recommendation in the 2002 Drug Strategy for an increase in the availability of heroin prescription to all those who have a clinical need is intended as guidance that heroin is preferable to other maintenance treatments for opiate addiction. [97646]

The Updated Drug Strategy 2002 recommendation, that heroin should be available on prescription to all those who have a clinical need for it, does emphatically not mean that heroin is preferable to other treatments. Heroin prescribing may be a valuable supplement to other treatment but only in a limited number of cases, usually where oral methadone has not proved successful. It is for individual clinicians to make a decision about this on a patient by patient basis.Prescribing oral methadone as a substitute for illicit opiates has proven benefits for both the individual and for society, particularly in terms of reducing injecting behaviour and criminal activity. Methadone can be prescribed for a range of treatments including detoxification, stabilisation and longer-term therapies. Additional guidance for practitioners on the use of heroin as a treatment option is due to be published shortly by the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse.