A report on ways to treat heroin users in Northern Ireland has been published.
Up to 1,000 heroin users in Northern Ireland
It recommended the use of methadone as a substitute for people dependent on heroin, where appropriate.
The report was carried out for the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety by Dr Karen McElrath of Queen's University, Belfast.
Methadone would be deliberately prescribed in a controlled manner to reduce the use of heroin or to reduce the harm associated with the drug.
A survey last year found that up to 1,000 people in the province were problem heroin users.
The number of problem heroin users in Northern Ireland has grown over recent years
Dr Henrietta Campbell
Chief Medical Officer
It also showed up to two-thirds of users did not receive any treatment for their addiction in the 12-month period of study.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Henrietta Campbell said the department agreed with the central thrust of Dr McElrath's recommendations.
"The number of problem heroin users in Northern Ireland has grown over recent years and, with this growth, the subject of substitute therapy as an option for those presenting for treatment has become a significant issue," she said.
Dr Campbell said the department had qualified its response because of the potential risks of unauthorised or accidental use of methadone.
NI Drug and Alcohol Strategy Co-ordinator Jo Daykin welcomed the report's findings.
"Although the use of substitute maintenance therapies for heroin dependence is permitted in Northern Ireland, it has not been used on any significant scale," she said.
The department is set to establish an implementation group to support the programme of administering heroin substitutes.