Abolist NTA to Cut Drug Addiction

“Methadone prescriptions for heroin addicts would be cut and the National Treatment Agency that runs the programme scrapped under plans from the Tories favourite think-tank,” reports Rosemary Bennett, social affairs correspondent of The Times newspaper.

“The Centre for Social Justice, set up by Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said it was unacceptable that only 4% of addicts in treatment ever get “clean” and accused the agency of “pushing aside” proper rehabilitation. The Times has also learnt that the highly influential think-tank will use a report on Monday to throw its weight behind Ken Clarke, the Justice Secretary, who called for short prison sentences to be scrapped.The report will state that the CSJ agrees with him that short sentences of two months do nothing to help to rehabilitate offenders and should be replaced by community orders.”

The CSJ’s Green Paper on Criminal Justice and Addiction comes as the government considers major changes to drug policy and the future of the National Treatment Agency. Set up in 2001, the NTA oversees the controversial “harm reduction” strategy – most recent NTA treatment statistics show that of the 207,000 addicts a year who use ‘treatment’ services, only 8,980 completed their treatment drug free.4,600 addicts have access to residential rehabilitation.Numerous residential drug rehabilitation centres have closed because of lack of patients, despite no sharp fall in the number of addicts.

The CSJ said that the NTA, the running costs of which have spiralled to £18million a year, merely processes addicts with a “fatalistic” belief that they can never get clean. It wants it scrapped and replaced by an Addiction Recovery Board, chaired by a minister and charged with getting addicts off drugs altogether, using the best local private sector and charity programmes, or “recovery communities”.

The report says there is a role for methadone, but it should be used only as part of a wider treatment programme, with abstinence the goal.

“There is no strategy or incentive to reduce the numbers on maintenance treatment and move people into recovery,” the CSJ said. The report is also highly critical of how drug use is tolerated in prison: 55% of prisoners received into custody each year are classified as problematic drug users. According to the Ministry of Justice, one in five men who reports using mainstream drugs first used them in prison.

Source:www.addictiontoday.org. July 10th 2010

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