Drugs: Heroin

House of Lords written question – answered on 6th April 2010.

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Photo of Lord Lea of Crondall Lord Lea of Crondall Labour

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the economic and social effects in Switzerland of making heroin legally available for addicts under medical supervision in the health service; and whether they plan to introduce a similar scheme under the National Health Service.

Photo of Baroness Thornton Baroness Thornton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

An expert group convened by the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse to consider the issues in relation to injectable opioid treatment heard evidence from the Swiss experience of supervised consumption of prescribed heroin, presented by one of the Swiss researchers.

The department is providing funding for a randomised injectable opiate treatment trial (RIOTT), in line with the Government's Drug Strategy 2008 commitment to explore pilots of injectable heroin in controlled, clinical settings.

RIOTT is a United Kingdom study exploring the role of prescribed injectable diamorphine (pharmaceutical heroin) and injectable methadone in a number of supervised clinic settings for the treatment of opiate misusers who have not responded to other types of treatment.

Initial results were announced at a conference on 15 September 2009 and formal publication of the results are due to be published in a medical journal shortly.

The department will consider the evaluation of the trial before any future decisions on the issue are taken.

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