Methadone policy review to improve addicts' treatment

Patient drinking methadone Methadone is one part of the Scottish government's drugs policy

Related Stories

Ministers have ordered a review of the way heroin addicts are treated.

It will gather evidence on substitute drugs such as methadone, and is part of the Scottish government's national drugs strategy.

It emphasises recovery from addiction - rather than the previous policy allowing addicts to use alternatives to heroin to stabilise their lives.

It is hoped the review will help doctors offer a full range of treatments, including methadone.

Since the 1980s, methadone has been at the heart of the drug treatment strategies of successive governments.

'Parked on methadone'

It has been heavily criticised as a "one-size fits all" approach to a complex problem.

Many recovering users complain they are 'parked' on methadone for years with no further treatment.

Other drugs can be prescribed to help addicts kick their habit.

Start Quote

Opiate replacement therapies stabilise the lives of people seeking to address their drug addictions. ”

End Quote Sir Harry Burns Chief Medical Officer

They include buprenorphine (Subutex), buprenorphine and naloxone (Suboxone), diamorphine (pharmaceutical heroin) or dihydrocodeine for drug treatment.

But methadone, with an estimated 24,507 patients receiving it on prescription, is the most common.

The review, to be headed by the chief medical officer, Sir Harry Burns, will include independent experts from the Scottish Drugs Strategy Delivery Commission.

Its aim is to consider objectively the role of opiate replacement therapy (ORT) in the treatment of substance misuse.

Sir Harry said: "We know that opiate replacement therapies stabilise the lives of people seeking to address their drug addictions.

"This group brings together great expertise, and its work will give us a clearer picture of how these therapies are being used across Scotland."

The government's policy, 'The Road to Recovery' announced in 2008, aims to ensure users are no longer dependent on any drug including methadone.

Consult parties

Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham said ORT had saved thousands of lives in Scotland.

"However, the Scottish government is clear that prescribed drug treatment is not, and cannot be, the only treatment option available on the pathway to recovery," she added.

"People have a right to a full range of treatment and support options and to decide in consultation with professionals, what is best for them."

Start Quote

It is unfortunate that methadone seems to have become something of a political football”

End Quote David Liddell Scottish Drugs Forum

The government said between April 2011 and March 2012 prescribed drug treatment - including methadone - was less than 20% of treatment options started.

The expert group has been asked to consider objectively the evidence supporting the role of ORT in the treatment of substance misuse.

This includes consulting all political parties before it makes its recommendations to the government and the Scottish Parliament.

It is expected to report in Spring, 2013.

The move has been welcomed by drugs workers.

David Liddell, director of Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF) said: "It is unfortunate that methadone seems to have become something of a political football.

"The numbers on methadone have been used as a sign that the strategy is not working.

"This analysis is simplistic when a more measured and sophisticated debate could make a useful contribution."

He said politicians needed to think more deeply about why people turn to drugs - and what responses society can make.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Scotland stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

  • Cerro RicoSatanic mines

    Devil worship in the tunnels of the man-eating mountain


  • Nefertiti MenoeWar of words

    The woman who sparked a row over 'speaking white'


  • Oil pumpPump change

    What would ending the US oil export ban do to petrol prices?


  • Brazilian Scene, Ceara, in 1893Sir Snapshot

    19th Century Brazil seen through the eyes of an Englishman


Elsewhere on the BBC

  • SailingGame on

    BBC Capital discovers why certain sports seem to have a special appeal for those with deep pockets

Programmes

  • Prof Piot, the first person to indentify Ebola virusHARDtalk Watch

    Ebola expert warns travellers could spread the disease further if it is not contained

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.