Methadone is a ‘monster’ that keeps addicts hooked

THE methadone programme has failed drug addicts in Clydebank, a leading addictions worker said this week.

methadone-is-a-monsterDonnie McGilveray is the manager of Alternatives, a West Dunbartonshire charity that helps reform drug addicts, many of them methadone users.

He told the Post the methadone programme used to treat heroin addicts has gone unregulated — and described the green liquid as a “monster” that keeps people hooked for good.

His comments come after shock statistics were released last week showing that Clydebank pharmacies claimed £153,000 for methadone prescriptions in 2014.

Donnie told the Post: “I think methadone is helpful for a small cohort of people, the five to ten per cent of people who are chaotic, suicidal or maybe sex workers being used and abused by people. There is a small group of people who need to be made safe.

But that’s not what is happening. We’ve got this monster, a jolly green giant, that many, many addicts are stuck on. And again, it’s not just them who are stuck in this it’s the doctors and nurses who have an obligation to keep them safe.”

National data obtained by BBC Scotland showed pharmacists were paid £17.8 million for handling nearly half a million prescriptions of methadone in 2014. In Clydebank, £153,000 was paid to eight pharmacies to deliver 3,165 prescriptions of the heroin substitute. In Dalmuir Lloyds, £31,671 was claimed for prescribing and supervising methadone to addicts in 2014. But topping the chart was Lloyds Pharmacy on 375 Kilbowie Road which received £38,207 in payments. Pharmacists are paid around £2.32 for dispensing every dose of methadone and about £1.33 for supervising addicts while they take it. Chemists pay the wholesale cost of buying methadone from the government money they claim.

Around 60 per cent of the cash they are paid is made up of their handling fee for the drug and their charges for dishing it out to addicts. In 2013, pharmacies claimed back more than £17.9 million from the Scottish Government for handling 470,256 prescriptions of methadone — 22,980 prescriptions more than in 2014.

Donnie also told the Post he believes West Dunbartonshire, which has a long history of drug problems, is making progress tackling addiction. He said: “At the end of the day, the statistics don’t tell you how many people are on methadone or any details of the prescription, but what we can tell is the drug companies are making a killing from it.”

Figures released by the NHS in 2012 revealed that methadone-implicated deaths increased dramatically in cases where the individual had been prescribed the drug for more than a year.

The addictions worker told the Post he believes methadone should be reserved for the chaotic drug users and other substitutes such as Buprenorphine, Subutex and Dihydrocodiene should be implemented. He continued: “Methadone is not just a medical or pharmaceutical matter but a human rights issue. “The dilemma is that if you reduce someone’s methadone they become unstable and could relapse. Some of the people we work with at Alternatives have relapsed, it’s a regular situation.

If you start to reduce this person they could relapse and relapse significantly, and they might think they can go back onto heroin and inevitably could end up overdosing.”

He added: “That’s my position and I don’t envy the medical side of it in trying to square this problem.”

Top researcher Dr Neil McKeganey, from the Centre for Drug Misuse Research, said the methadone programme “is literally a black hole into which people are disappearing”.

The statistics of methadone prescriptions can be viewed online at:

Alternatives is an organisation funded by West Dunbartonshire Council that helps bring recovering addicts back into society. The project has been around since January 1995, firstly covering Dumbarton and the Vale of Leven, latterly broadening out to Clydebank.

Source: 7th April 2015

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