Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 560 - 562)



  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 of supplies.

  561. If we were to head out down this road, we should do so cautiously and step by step.
  (Professor Henry) Very, very cautiously.

Mr Prosser

  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.

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