The British Government's adviser on drugs, Professor Sir Michael Rawlins, has proposed that cocaine addicts in the country be prescribed the drug by chemists and nurses to help them overcome the habit.
The Telegraph, quoted Rawlins, who is also the Chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), as saying that he has proposed a change in the law to allow cocaine to be administered under licence from the Home Office.
The suggestion was condemned by the Conservatives who said the Government risked raising the "white flag" to drug addiction if it adopted the policy.
The ACMD was asked to consider a list of 26 steroids and other substances that are currently not banned in the UK. The list, drawn up by the World Anti-Doping Agency, included the substances Gestrinone and Danazol.
Sir Michael told committee members he wrote to Vernon Coaker, the Home Office minister, earlier this month to propose a change in the law to allow nurses and pharmacists to prescribe controlled drugs including diamorphine. He believes It could make it easier for patients who need urgent pain control to access the drugs they need, he said, providing there were "robust" arrangements to ensure the substances were managed properly.
The ACMD also backed a change allowing nurses and chemists to prescribe diamorphine, cocaine or dipipanone to addicts under licence from the Home Office, in a bid to manage their problem.
Ministers will now consider the proposal.