Few treatments are more controversial than the prescribing of injectable heroin (diamorphine) to heroin addicts. This practice is still banned in the USA and Australia, despite the serious drug problems in those countries. At present any UK doctor can prescribe injectable methadone for the treatment of heroin addiction; however, the prescribing of heroin requires a special licence from the Home Office. The National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse is the statutory body currently responsible for advising purchasers (local drug action teams) in regard to specialist services for addictions. They have recently commissioned and published guidelines for the prescription of injectables in opiate addiction (National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse, 2003). This follows the report of a Government committee, which stated:
‘If diamorphine treatment could be offered to all problematic users who do not successfully access other treatments, we believe it could play a useful part in managing the social problems generated by this group of people’ (House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, 2003).