Heroin: Register of Addicts

House of Lords written question – answered on 14th March 2005.

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Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Local and Devolved Government Affairs

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 3 March (WA 36), why a register of addicts is no longer kept in England and Wales; when the decision was made to end the register; how the decision was communicated to Parliament and the public; and whether the register included all types of drug addicts or just heroin users.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice System and Law Reform), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

Until 1997, doctors throughout the United Kingdom treating persons they considered to be addicted to a drug in a specified list were statutorily required to notify that person's details to the Chief Medical Officer at the Home Office.

Following a review, in 1996, of the operation of the register and of other statistical information relating to drug misusers it was decided to end the system of doctor notifications. The decision was communicated to Parliament in response to a Written Question on 20 March 1997 (Hansard, col. 837) and, more widely, through a press release.

The register operated in respect of the following drugs:

cocaine, dextromoramide, diamorphine (heroin), dipipanone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, levorphanol, methadone, morphine, opium, oxycodone, pethidine, phenazocine and piritramide.

Although it covered diamorphine (heroin) and cocaine it did not include current drugs of misuse such as amphetamine, ecstasy, LSD and cannabis. Its utility as a research and epidemiological tool was, therefore, severely limited as was its use in enforcement terms. Better information is now available through sources such as the Department of Health's regional drug misuse databases and the drug seizure and offender statistics published by the Home Office.

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