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Prescribe heroin on NHS, says Peter Carter


Heroin should be prescribed on the NHS, according to Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter.

His comments followed a debate on the subject at the RCN’s annual congress, in which nurses argued that prescribing heroin instead of methadone would help fight drug addiction and reduce infections such as hepatitis.

Dr Carter told journalists: “My personal view is that I do believe in heroin prescribing. 

“It might take a few years but I do think eventually people will understand. It’s a hugely misunderstood subject because it looks like somehow we’re encouraging it.”

Prescribing heroin and allowing addicts to use it under supervision would cut crime rates, if proper standards were developed, he said.

He added more needle exchanges were also needed, to reduce the numbers of dirty needles and syringes found in playgrounds and stairwells.

In an earlier debate some nurses were concerned that heroin prescribing would cost too much at a time when the NHS is under serious budgetary pressures.

Others argued it would create a more effective “step down” service, helping to engage users and persuade them to switch to safer ways of taking the drug, such as orally rather than through injections.


Readers' comments (7)

  • Well, well, well. Big cahones after all. You do realise Peter that they will try to make you go for talking sense like this?

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  • Brave move Peter, completely support you in this.

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  • Typical doo gooder ideas and attitudes. It's this type of idiocy that has got this country into the state it's in now.

    How about actually enforcing current laws on drug users and dealers for a change instead of soft sentencing. Prescribing Heroin!? Ludicrous idea supported by ludicrous people.

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  • Any one with any sense would agree with Peter. A few people who don't know what they are talking about will try to make mischief, but they are best ignored.

    40 years of failed policy is surely long enough!

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  • I think that allowing the NHS to prescribe Heroin would certainly be progress.

    It would take away the criminal element of buying and obtaining the drugs, it would drive down the price of heroin to the minimum (2p per gram in Afghanistan) and would do away with a great deal of the illegal drug trade (as the bottom would drop out of the market).

    Although, I personally do not see prescribing as the ultimate cure to drug addiction.

    It is my opinion that illegal drugs need to be decriminalized (not legalized).

    Once decriminalized the drugs (where applicable) can then be administered to drug users by authorized health staff, in a safe controlled secure environment.

    *(secure environment meaning a secure lock in 24 hour hospital, where an addict can be treated for his / her addiction).

    Once within a safe controlled secure environment, specialist psychological and psychiatric staff can help drug addicts ween them selves off the drugs and rehabilitate.

    While in the secure environment, the drug addicts can also under go rehabilitation education that will help them learn to live life as an non addict.

    Learning to replace drug addict social circles with non drug user circles and learning to replace the drugs that they get to get high on with healthy drug free positive activities that will give them a different type of high.

    Also, cbt techniques and even sports psychology techniques could be employed to strengthen an individuals will power.

    Or even, martial arts training, to strengthen a persons will power to stay straight and immunity to pain. (as most drug addicts are big babies when it comes to pain, ie. cold turkey).

    I believe that this approach would be far more successful than the present approach where the drug addict is criminalized and imprisoned.

    Costing society money directly (prison) and indirectly (as the drug addict is not healed and continues to be a burden on society through any crime committed).

    Drug addicts are self destructive people suffering from an illness, who need to be treated and not hurt any further.

    My older brother was unfortunate enough to have been a drug addict and was put in prison for 3 years for possessing a small amount of heroin.

    Before going into prison, he had drug problems. When he came out of prison, his drug problems were still as bad, plus his time in prison had damaged him psychologically.

    While in prison, he also picked up a number of unhealthy criminal traits which I am sure did not benefit the society that the system was protecting by imprisoning him in the first place!

    Sadly he died in 2007 of a fentaynl over dose.

    Months before his death I remember talking to him, I remember him telling me how much he wanted to be clean again but just could not stay away from the drugs.

    I believe that he could not get clean because he was unable to escape his social circle for a long enough period.

    Perhaps if he had been treated in a secure environment as the one i mention above, by compassionate and wise specialist health staff he may have had a chance and he and his family would not have had to suffer so much because of his illness.

    We now live with a gaping hole in our lives.
    We are all heart broken by our loss and wish no one else to have to go through such a tragic ordeal.

    Please listen to the nurses reasoning!
    Please save lives and not capitalize out of the illegal drug industries!

    Good luck.

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  • ps methadone does not cure drug addiction. Most addicts will take methadone because its free or because they have run out of Heroin. Taking methadone does not cure their addiction.
    It simply sees them through till their next bag of smack.
    And nothing changes.
    Heroin addiction needs specialist health professionals who have real insight and solutions to curing drug addiction.
    and if there are some individuals that can not be cured, then perhaps removing them from society into a secure hospital may be the best solution.
    As, is someone was mentally unstable that they were harmful to themselves or others, they most definitely be locked away in a specialist secure apu.
    Perhaps this is what is needed for the people who can not be cured.
    *please note, I said specialist apu and not prison.

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  • Before we advocate a state sponsored Heroin industry perhaps we should try, as a previous poster has suggested, rigidly enforce the current laws of the land and get the pushers off the streets.

    The PC brigade with their soft, 'touchy feely' tactics will only encourage our children to try out and become involved with an addictive drug.

    Tobacco and alcohol users have been and continue to be stygmatised, shunned and pushed out of polite society. Yet Heroin users will it seems be positively encouraged to go through life on a perpetual drug induced high.

    God help the RTA figures if such a barnpot idea ever comes to fruition......

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