Scotland’s methadone bill hits £17million

The cost of providing methadone to drug addicts has almost doubled in the past five years to nearly £17million.
The total bill for dispensing the heroin substitute north of the Border rose by 84% – from £9,049,792 in 2003/4 to £16,637,636 in 2009.
Annabel Goldie, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said the figures were evidence that current drug treatment methods are failing. Drug misuse experts believe addicts should have a maximum of two years on methadone, which is prescribed to an estimated 22,000 people as an alternative to heroin.
Professor Neil McKeganey, director of the Centre for Drugs Misuse Research at Glasgow University, said millions of pounds were being wasted on methadone prescriptions.
The Scottish Government announced a new drugs strategy in 2008. The document promised a change in treatment methods but failed to set targets for cutting methadone use.
Reacting to the latest revelations, Ms Goldie said: “Even in the past year alone the cost of prescribing methadone has risen by over 10 per cent. Under eight years of Labour and the Lib Dems, Scotland’s drug dependency became a methadone dependency.
“The SNP must not make the same mistake. “Methadone must stop being the treatment of first resort. A new political will and a new national strategy were the first steps but now it’s time for action.”
There are an estimated 50,000 “problem” drug users in Scotland. A United Nations report last week showed Scots had the second-highest rate of heroin use in Europe.
Prof McKeganey added: “We have got to move away from it and politicians have to be determined and show leadership, because otherwise the costs of the methadone programme will rise and they will strangle the development of alternative treatments. “You can’t spend that much money on a single treatment and not make other possible treatments suffer as a result.”
However, a Scottish government spokesman insisted its drugs strategy would open up access to alternative treatment methods. He continued: “We want a much wider range of services to be available for drug users. We are transforming the delivery of drug services to ensure that help is available when people need it most. The new target to reduce waiting times will help ensure this happens.”
Source: 05 July 2009

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