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Drugs: Heroin

Volume 704: debated on Thursday 16 October 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to reduce the number of heroin-related deaths; and whether they are on course to meet their target of reducing heroin-related deaths by 20 per cent. [HL5422]

In November 2001, the Government set a target to reduce drug-related deaths in England and Wales by 20 per cent between 1999 and 2004, as part of their action plan to reduce drug-related deaths.

The publication by the Office for National Statistics of data on drug-related deaths in England and Wales during the period 2000-04 in February 2005, showed that there had been an overall reduction of 9.2 per cent against the target.

The action plan was implemented by improving surveillance and monitoring of drugs use, improvised access to and consistency of prescribing treatment and guidance to commissioner and providers of treatment to users on limiting the risk of overdose.

In February 2008, the Government launched Drugs: Protecting Families and Communities, the strategy which sets out new measures to enforce, educate and intervene on drugs, and support those who need it, into treatment. The new strategy emphasises the importance of treatment as a key plank of government policy.

We are committed to providing a comprehensive range of treatment services, that enable drug users to access the service assessed as being most appropriate for their needs.

The number of people receiving treatment has increased by 130 per cent in the past 10 years: 195,000 people received treatment in 2006-07, and almost 50 per cent of all problematical drug users, those who use opiates and/or crack cocaine, are in treatment.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, if the Naxolone (N-ALIVE) trial, recently approved for funding by the Medical Research Council which aims at reducing heroin-related deaths by providing users with Naxolone, achieves its projected 30 per cent reduction in deaths, they will consider making it available to all heroin users. [HL5423]

The Medical Research Council is funding the N-ALIVE (NALoxone InVEstigation) pilot randomised controlled trial (RCT). This study will provide evidence on the feasibility of a potential future main RCT—prison-based Naloxone-on-release RCT to reduce drugs-related deaths. Any decision to fund a full trial would be dependent on the results of the feasibility work, which includes the participation of the relevant government departments across the United Kingdom.

Both the pilot and the potential full trial are specifically targeting prisoners with a history of heroin injection, who are at high risk of overdose in the first week of release. Any outcomes from that target group would need to be assessed by the relevant bodies for applicability more widely after the research was reported.