Methadone treatment 97% ineffective.

EDINBURGH: The Scottish Executive’s anti-drug abuse policy was criticized sharply yesterday following a report that the government recommended heroin-substitute methadone is 97% ineffective.

Methadone, a drug used for recovery from heroin addiction, has a success rate of no more than 3.4%, according to Professor Neil McKeganey, chief researcher for Glasgow University’s Centre for Drug Misuse Research. McKeganey has just concluded a study on the effectiveness of the £12m a year Methadone programme.

The study observed a group of 695 heroin addicts who started taking treatment in 2001 at 33 different addiction centers across Scotland. A large percentage of this group was given methadone-based care while the rest were put on rehabilitation. Their progress was recorded over interviews 33 months after they started the treatment to see if they had become drug-free over a 90-day period.

The group given only-methadone had a very poor 3.4 percent recovery rate from drug addiction; whereas the group placed in residential rehabilitation (with no methadone throughout the treatment) showed a 29% success rate.

A key difference in methadone’s success rates between Scotland and England was also pointed out. While England emphasizes on getting people off drugs entirely, Scotland’s drug policy lacks any such direction; as a result, addicts simply substitute methadone with heroin.

McKeganey’s previous research had revealed a greater inclination to commit crimes among methadone patients when compared with addicts placed on abstinence programmes. People in the latter group also showed twice the level of interest in finding a job.

While the report makes no recommendation, sharp reactions have come in from various quarters demanding the Executive at least review its drug policy if not entirely scrap methadone. Tory leader Anabel Goldie said she recommended more investment in residential rehabilitation centres.

Meanwhile an official at the Greater Glasgow NHS facility said methadone may not be suitable for everyone but many addicts do benefit from it. He also said the government was looking to offer “a wider package of support” that would include rehabilitation, education and training, to addicts.

Source: Earthtimes.org. 30.10.06

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