Intended for healthcare professionals

Practice Observed

Heroin users in general practice: ascertainment and features

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988; 296 doi: (Published 12 March 1988) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988;296:755
  1. Ronald G Neville,
  2. James F McKellican,
  3. John Foster


    A case-control study of heroin users in general practice showed a prevalence of roughly two per 1000 of the urban population or four per “average” general practice list of patients. A method of studying heroin users who attend general practice was used that has advantages over existing techniques. Thirty six heroin users had a statistically significantly higher yearly doctor-patient consultation rate than a group of matched controls. More heroin users also failed to attend appointments than controls. When consultations directly related to heroin and its effects were excluded, however, the consultation rates in the two groups were similar. The heroin users did not have an excess of psychiatric disorder or disturbed family background compared with controls but had a noticeable history of dishonest and violent behaviour towards medical staff.

    A high proportion of heroin users in the study were antibody positive for the human immunodeficiency virus. General practitioners should take advantage of their frequent contacts with heroin users and their families to give them support and counselling about the acquired immune deficiency syndrome.