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Heroin: Rehabilitation

Volume 487: debated on Wednesday 11 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment his Department has made of the merits of treatment of heroin addicts with morphine; and if he will make a statement. (255480)

As part of the Department-commissioned “Drug Misuse and Dependence: UK Guidelines on Clinical Management (2007)”, the clinical guidelines expert group who developed the document commented on the potential role of slow release oral morphine (SROM) in the treatment of drug dependence. It stated that SROM is not licensed in the UK for the treatment of opiate dependence and should not normally be used in the community. A copy of the document has already been placed in the Library.

However, the clinical guidelines expert group also acknowledged European research that has shown that SROM can be effective in treating drug dependent patients who ‘fail to tolerate methadone’ but recommended that it should only be used in the United Kingdom by specialist clinicians who have the necessary competencies to do so.

Within UK clinical settings morphine is mainly used for the management of severe and chronic pain, especially in palliative care.

The Department commissioned the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to examine and make recommendations on the most effective drugs for substitute opioid treatment. In 2007, NICE recommended methadone and buprenorphine as the most effective substitute opioids to be used in the treatment of opiate dependence.