HC Deb 26 February 2003 vol 400 cc613-4W
Mrs. Helen Clark

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]

Ms Blears

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.