Examination of Witnesses (Questions 560
TUESDAY 27 NOVEMBER 2001
560. I should be interested in your opinion
because you are at the coal face unlike many of us.
(Professor Henry) To provide heroin for a small proportion
of people who cannot be controlled without it is clearly a way
forward. Widespread provision of pharmaceutical heroin for people
who are addicted might lead to failure and a lot of diversion
561. If we were to head out down this road,
we should do so cautiously and step by step.
(Professor Henry) Very, very cautiously.
562. I want to pursue the whole issue of prescribing
of drugs under a legalised or decriminalised system. Past witnesses
have given the impression which has come out in this discussion
that if heroin in particular were prescribed without limit that
would reduce harm and collapse the criminal issues and the black
market. In the course of that discussion we explored whether just
making the licence to GPs easier to access would be almost a funnel,
would be a graduated way of approaching a decriminalised state.
My impression was that what was limiting that was the difficulty
that GPs were having accessing a licence from the Home Office
because of the strict criteria set up. The evidence Professor
Stimson is bringing us this morning is that it is more to do with
the cost of the drugs and the lack of resources the GP might have
and added to that the possibility that it might have an effect
on his other patients' perception of his practice. Can we have
some views on that?
(Professor Nutt) May I make a couple of comments?
I do not think the limiting factor is availability of licences.
The limiting factor is that doctors do not want to do this, they
consider treating addicts undesirable, they do not like doing
it, it is difficult, they are not trained to do it. If we were
to expand the heroin prescribing, which would be a very interesting
thing to try to do, we would have to do a lot of educating of
doctors because I would say that doctors currently, almost every
GP in the country, would feel unprepared for prescribing heroin.
(Mr Hickman) Services are differently set up, so a
lot of prescription in Europe is supervised and we do not have
those facilities here yet. It makes it much more expensive.
Chairman: Gentlemen, I am conscious that we
have not done justice to the great weight of expertise you bring
to the table, partly because there are eight of us and four of
you and a limited time. Is there anything that any of you are
burning to say that you feel you have not been given the opportunity
to say? If anything occurs to you, do not hesitate to drop us
a note. This inquiry will continue certainly into January and
it would be very useful if any further thoughts occurred to you
if you would get in touch with us. Thank you very much for coming.