Evidence needed on heroin prescribing

The government’s plans to expand the prescription of heroin could
fail without further research into its effectiveness, according to
a new report.

The study, by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, states that doctors
are likely to require better evidence of the effectiveness of
prescribing heroin to addicts before they agree to put government
plans to give wider access into effect.

Although the study welcomes ministers’ plans it argues that a much
clearer strategy needs to be in place, including a commitment to
research trials that will evaluate its effectiveness compared with
other treatments.

The report cites recent evidence from Switzerland and the
Netherlands suggesting that prescribing heroin for people with
long-term dependency problems can lead to health and social
improvements where other treatments have failed.

Doctors require a licence from the Home Office to prescribe heroin
for treating addiction.

There is no central record of how many doctors prescribe the drug
or the number of heroin users receiving prescriptions.

A survey carried out in 2000 by specialists from the Centre for
Research on Drugs and Health Behaviour at London’s Imperial
College, found that only 70 doctors were licensed to prescribe the
drug and of them 46 were doing so. 

Prescribing Heroin: What is the Evidence? From www.jrf.org.uk or 01904 430033

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