Shocking report shows two in three addicts on methadone still use drugs after three months
TWO thirds of drug users still take illegal substances three months after starting addiction treatment, a shock Government report on methadone has revealed. Health bosses spend £36million a year dishing out methadone to addicts, and the heroin substitute forms the mainstay of treatment. But the Report on People in Treatment study reveals that more than two out of every three users who go into treatment admit continuing to use illegal drugs after three months.
The paper – released after a Record investigation into methadone – also suggests the Government have little idea of how effective the program is in weaning addicts off drugs. Information is only held on people who entered treatment after 2010, and time after time the report refers to massive sections of “unknown” or “missing” information. Where information was available, the report painted a bleak picture of addicts’ success in holding down jobs or maintaining family relationships.
The number of people reporting being in work after three months of drug treatment actually fell from just 12 per cent to an even more pitiful nine per cent. The report also reveals that in almost a third of cases – 29 per cent – the Government appears not to know where drug addicts’ children were living. Children were only living with the addict after three months of treatment in 30 per cent of cases. In 41 per cent of cases, their status was simply “living elsewhere”. The remainder were “unknown”. The report also suggested that current drug treatments were doing little to combat homelessness among addicts.
Campaigners for more residential rehab facilities will be dismayed to find that few people gain access to these services. The report stated that just one per cent of addicts who accessed treatment in 2011-12 were in supported accommodation or residential rehab. The report’s publication followed a Daily Record investigation that pinned down the true cost of the methadone program.
In a string of exclusives, the Record has revealed how the heroin substitute costs taxpayers more than £36million a year. One pharmacist, Denis Houlihan, has claimed more than £850,000 through just one chemist shop over six years. We also highlighted the lack of information held to show whether the policy was actually working. We highlighted cases where addicts had been left on methadone for decades without being offered any other treatment.
Labour MSP Graeme Pearson, former head of the SCDEA, criticised the poor quality of information in the report and called for a Government rethink on drug treatment. He said: “The stats are based on poor quality data. But once you remove the unknowns from the figures, the picture seems to say that nothing changes. “Often the use of methadone links to homelessness and there is little evidence to show that Government policy is reducing numbers of problematic drug abusers. “More than 20 per cent of prisoners in Barlinnie queue daily to obtain their prescription of methadone. “Public services must turn their minds to reduction strategies rather than mere maintenance of the problem.”
Neil McKeganey, director of the Centre for Drug Misuse Research, said: “There are a number of areas where we should be concerned. “We are clearly failing in securing employment for drug users who are well down the road to recovery. “However, I think the greatest concern has to do with the children of drug dependent parents. “In particular, the fact that drug services do not appear to know of the living circumstances of approaching a third of the these children. “Given what we know is the level of risk and harm that these children are exposed to, this is a shocking figure and something that drug treatment services need to focus upon urgently.”
Community Safety and Legal Affairs Minister Roseanna Cunningham said: “We have been working since we introduced the Road to Recovery drugs strategy in 2008 to gather better information on drug treatment in Scotland and today’s publication marks an important starting point.”
Scotland’s chief medical officer Harry Burns is carrying out a review of the methadone program. The probe will consult all parties before making recommendations to the Government and Scottish Parliament next spring.