£3.6bn drug addict bill

By jon-q · Jun 19, 2011 · Updated Jun 19, 2011 · ·
  1. jon-q
    TAXPAYERS are forking out £3.6billion a year to keep addicts on drugs and benefits.

    The annual bill amounts to £11,250 for each of the 320,000 drug addicts signed up to the state’s methadone programme.

    A quarter of those have been on it for more than four years and half for at least two years.

    The figures are revealed as a report today by the Centre for Policy Studies think tank calls for a switch from keeping addicts on drugs towards abstinence rehabilitation. It wants organisations to be paid for every addict they get off drink and drugs for six months. Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke wants to keep addicts out of jail by moving them to rehabilitation schemes.

    A series of eight “payment by results” pilot projects is being launched in October.

    However, the CPS has branded the solution “seriously misguided” and “doomed to failure”.

    Report author Kathy Gyngell calls for “a real transfer of power from large distant organisations to small innovative providers” which concentrate on getting people to kick the habit.

    The cost of maintaining addicts on methadone has doubled since 2003 to £730million a year. They get a further £1.7billion in benefits while the welfare bill for their children is £1.2billion a year.

    However, fewer than four per cent who enter into state programmes emerge clean.

    A Health Department spokesman said: “The 2010 Drug Strategy is fundamentally different. The aim is to get people into treatment, off drugs for good and back into work.”

    Kirsty Buchanan
    Express.co.UK 19th June 2011


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  1. Finn Mac Cool
    Government policies for treating drug addicts in England are flawed and "doomed to failure", a think tank says.

    The Centre for Policy Studies says rehabilitation is a better use of the £3.6bn now spent on treating users with drug substitutes like methadone and keeping them on benefits each year.

    But it says plans to reward groups which treat addicts so they can return to work were open to manipulation.
    The Department of Health said it aimed to get users "off drugs for good".
    The coalition government wants to change the way drug addiction is tackled, with more people with problems diverted away from prison and into treatment as part of what it calls a "rehabilitation revolution".

    Part of this involves rewarding treatment providers who show addicts have improved their health and employment prospects.

    Transfer of power

    A report from the right-of-centre think tank, which has links to the Conservative Party, says these payment-by-results schemes were being run
    Our approach will be to go much further and offer every support for people to choose recovery”
    Department of Health

    It says the current annual cost of maintaining treatment for 320,000 problem drug users is made up of £1.7bn in benefits, £1.2bn for looking after their children and £730m for prescribing the heroin substitute methadone.

    The think tank calls for "a real transfer of power from large distant organisations to small innovative providers" for rehabilitation.

    It says such units have a better chance of getting addicts off drugs completely, adding: "There is one simple measure of success: That of six months abstinence from drugs."

    According to the report's author Kathy Gyngell, chairwoman of the prisons and addictions policy forum at the CPS, prescribing methadone to addicts delays their recovery.

    She told the BBC: "The state is subsidising people to be any number of years on methadone, which has turned out not to be a cheap option and will only subsidise the tiniest proportion - 2% - to go into a rehabilitation unit that would actually free them from dependency and allow them to live their life."

    A Department of Health spokesman said: "The 2010 Drug Strategy is fundamentally different from those that have gone before.

    "Instead of focusing primarily on reducing the harms caused by drug misuse, our approach will be to go much further and offer every support for people to choose recovery as an achievable way out of dependence."

    He added: "Work is under way to support local recovery systems tailored to the needs of communities, many of which are already showing positive results."

    19 June 2011

  2. enquirewithin
    Government policies are poor. Who could doubt that?

    "Think Tanks" sometimes seem to be places devoid of thinking.

    I have not read the report but somehow the thinking seems flawed. one problem is that metadone is not much liked by addicts-- it's not what they want. They also disregard the fact that some people will always be addicts, probably because of underlying problems. the reasons why people take heroin need to be looked at. In some cases helping them find work might be the answer, but not always.

    "There is one simple measure of success: That of six months abstinence from drugs."

    That doesn't sound right at all. Many people 'stay clean' for 6 months and plunge straight back into addiction, even years later.

    This is pure politics, aimed at middle England, and I doubt it has any more sincerity than the 'humanitarian' interventions in Iraq or Libya-- far more of a burden on the taxpayer and far worse for the health.
  3. jon-q

    I think it’s odd that a Conservative think tank should blast Conservative policies regarding drug rehabilitation, maybe given recent developments in the UK we are about to see another policy U-turn, which may not be a bad thing, IMO.

    The 2010 Drug Strategy can be fund here http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/local_links.php?action=ratelink&catid=105&linkid=10732

  4. Synaps
    It is not difficult to find out how much methadone treatment costs the taxpayers. It is difficult to find out how much the taxpayers save on keeping them on methadone, in the form of less crime, less chance of having ones kid step on a used needle etc... To get the full picture, they should conduct a study on this first, before doing anything drastic. I know that attempts to get the hardest users off drugs for good has proven to be near impossible in Norway.
  5. enquirewithin
    i suspect that its "change" in the way Obama defines change. Its probably a cover for simply spending less on rehab, which would not be positive.

    Thanks fot he link. Just browsing it reveals some nasty sounding ideas:

    More emphasis on law and order. 2010 means that it was Labour who started this initiative-- there is hardly any difference between the parties, except that Cameron got involved in an illagal war more quickly than even the callous Blair did and tried to undermine the NHS more quickly.

    Its emphasis on legal highs can't be good. History shows that people don't actually want to be drug free-- there is a 24 hour bar in the House of Commons. Why not start by closing that? Alcohol is a legal high with a very bad reputation, why not start with that? If there was an alcohol test, half the politicians in the House of Commons and Lords would fail!

    Its reads like hypocritical political nonsense.

    Shameful hypocrisy. Bliar claimed that the attack on Afghanistan was to reduce the supply of heroin in the streets in the UK-- we all what actually happened. We are even keeping the drug barons in power (the ones on our side like Karzai's bother) and the US/ NATO's utter inability to govern the country means that opium production has become a necessity in Afghanistan.

    What is the UK's daily expenditure on wars around the world/ This the addiction that really needs to be tackled.

    Treatment not force is what is needed.
  6. jon-q

    The above mentioned report Breaking the habit: “Why the state should stop dealing drugs and start doing rehab” by Kathy Gyngell can be found in the archives here.

  7. jon-q
    This link is dead?


    This is Drugscope’s take on the above mentioned report.

    Misleading Centre for Policy Studies report ‘grossly exaggerates’ cost of methadone prescribing

    DrugScope, the national membership organisation for the drug sector, is today responding to the publication of the Centre Policy Studies (CPS) report, Breaking the habit, which garnered significant media attention on Sunday 19 June.

    Having now had the opportunity to see the report on which the embargoed CPS press release was based, DrugScope is extremely concerned at the misrepresentation of the facts about drug treatment and its costs, as well as the content and language of some of the media reporting which followed.

    The CPS press release and the executive summary at the front of the report both state that £730 million is spent annually on “methadone prescribing”. This is wrong.

    Only ten pages in to the report does the report author, Kathy Gyngell, explain how the figure of £730 million was reached. The funding streams she has included in this total figure are below – with explanations from DrugScope as to what the figures actually relate to:

    - £380 million of Pooled Treatment Budget

    This is the money provided by central government to local drugs partnerships to enable them to commission all drug treatment in their area, and includes the money needed for the running costs of services, the salaries of staff etc.

    - £205 million of local (community care) funds

    This is the money that partners in each local drugs partnership have contributed to the local drug treatment system. This includes money from health (PCTs), local authorities, police, probation and the prison service.

    - £110 million of Ministry of Justice Drugs Intervention Programme funding

    This covers the running of the DIP programme which diverts offenders into drug treatment, not the treatment itself. It includes all running costs associated with this programme, for example the salary costs of staff.

    - £25 million adolescent treatment funding

    The number of young people accessing treatment for heroin and other opiates has fallen to under 500 individuals (2009/10), out of a total of 23,528 individuals who received some form of treatment. The vast majority of young people in treatment receive help for problems with cannabis, alcohol and other drugs, receiving interventions such as talking therapies. Prescriptions for methadone are extremely rare among this age group.

    - £19 million for the National Treatment Agency’s operational and running costs

    This money is not spent on methadone, but on the costs of running a special health authority which has been responsible for overseeing drug treatment in England, on behalf of government.

    The report author claims that the sum of these figures (which she incorrectly states as £734 million, despite the total of the sums listed coming to £739 million) is the “cost of methadone prescribing”. This is simply wrong.

    The figures relate to the total cost of providing the current system of drug treatment (excluding treatment in prisons), which includes, for example, arrest referral, needle exchange programmes, psycho-social interventions, residential rehabilitation, in-patient detox and the provision of treatment for drugs other than heroin (including cannabis, cocaine and dependency related to the use of over-the-counter and prescription medicines).

    DrugScope will be writing to the CPS to highlight our concerns about the report.

    DrugScope will also be making a complaint to the BBC which repeated factually incorrect information throughout much of the day on Sunday 19 June. DrugScope is concerned about the lack of fact-checking on the figures contained in the CPS press release. Martin Barnes, Chief Executive of DrugScope, appeared live on the BBC News Channel on Sunday 19 June to dispute the assertions made in the press release and the BBC’s reporting. He raised concerns about the figures in the report prior to appearing on air.

    Having had an opportunity to read the full report, Martin Barnes, Chief Executive of DrugScope, has made the following statement:

    “The Centre for Policy Studies report grossly exaggerates the cost of one type of drug treatment and seriously misrepresents what the treatment system has achieved. It also, sadly, fails to acknowledge the success stories of many thousands of people whose lives have been improved and who have recovered from drug dependency while under its care.

    “To state that the cost of methadone prescribing is £730 million – a total derived by adding up spending on almost the entirety of the drug treatment system - is plainly ridiculous. An accurate statement of the total cost of drug treatment should be compared against an estimated annual cost of problem drug use to society of over £15 billion a year. The National Audit Office concluded in March 2010 that drug treatment represents good value for money for the taxpayer.

    “The language used by the report author to describe methadone prescribing in media interviews on Sunday 19 June is, moreover, detrimental to the recovery agenda. Referring to people as being ‘zombied out’ on methadone and to describe methadone prescribing as ‘entrenching addiction’ is not the language of recovery.

    “Under the NHS Constitution, all patients have a right to access evidence-based treatment - which in response to substance misuse, includes substitute prescribing. To assert that receiving an evidence-based, medical intervention like methadone prescribing is ‘entrenching addiction’ increases the stigma surrounding drug treatment and recovery and could make it harder for people experiencing problems to come forward for help.

    “The government’s drug strategy underlines the importance of a balanced treatment system, focused on supporting recovery, which should be tailored to the needs of individuals. It recognises that recovery can mean different things to different people. DrugScope supports increasing access to residential rehabilitation services and improving the range of evidence based treatment options available. But there is no 'one size fits all' solution to what can be complex and difficult problems.

    “It is a shame that, in trying to bring attention to the issue of access to residential rehabilitation, the CPS has so seriously misrepresented facts about drug treatment. The report and its coverage risk undermining public support for drug treatment and for much needed investment in services which are key to improving outcomes and supporting recovery.”

  8. jon-q

    BBC attacked over coverage of 'misleading' methadone report

    The BBC has been drawn into an increasingly bitter row surrounding the merits and costs of treating heroin addicts.

    The charity DrugScope has written to the corporation complaining about its coverage of a report by a rightwing thinktank, the Centre for Policy Studies, that warned the prescription of the heroin substitute methadone was "entrenching addiction".

    The report, Breaking the Habit, said prescribing addicts with methadone had been an expensive failure and claimed there were 320,000 problem drug users on benefits, costing the taxpayer billions of pounds.

    The row has highlighted the increasingly polarised nature of the debate on treatment for heroin addicts. Last year the prime minister, David Cameron, described methadone as "a government-authorised form of opium".

    The centre's report claims there are as many addicts today as there were in 2004-05. It notes: "Fewer than 4% of addicts emerge from treatment free from dependency. Drug deaths have continued to rise."

    The thinktank suggested that instead of prescribing methadone, greater success would be achieved by funding small rehabilitation units that would encourage abstinence on a payment by results basis. Its hard-hitting claims have attracted extensive coverage and last week provoked a national debate on drug addiction treatment.

    While many in the drug treatment industry welcomed the centre's call to reconsider how the UK treats long-term addicts, the thinktank has been attacked over "misleading" figures. DrugScope said that it had written to the
    BBC to complain that, by giving extensive coverage to the report, the corporation had failed "to check the accuracy of claims made, particularly about the cost of treatment and methadone prescribing".

    Martin Barnes, DrugScope's chief executive, asked why the corporation had repeated the report's claim that "methadone prescribing costs £730m a year", saying the figure was for the drug treatment system as a whole.

    Barnes outlined a series of further examples where he said the report had conflated the true cost of methadone treatment and benefits paid to drug addicts. He pointed out that last year the National Audit Office concluded that drug treatment represents "good value for money" for the taxpayer.

    Barnes said: "Not only are the misleading claims potentially damaging to public confidence in drug treatment at a time of spending cuts and competing priorities, they risk reinforcing the stigma and barriers many people in recovery experience."

    A spokesman for the BBC confirmed it had received the complaint.

    Jamie Doward
    Guardian 26th June 2011

  9. jon-q
    It seems the BBC is going to try and sweep this blunder under the carpet, for now. Yesterday they altered some of the text in the above mentioned article.

    It used to say this

    And now it reads like this

    They have put this small disclaimer at the bottom of the article

    Originally this somewhat misleading story ran as the 3rd bulletin throughout the day on the TV and Radio, their amendment to the story consists of altering a little text and posting a minute disclaimer at the bottom of the article. The CPS remains bullish about this report and is quick to show all the positive media story’s the report garnished, strangely there is no mention of Drugscopes “Take” on the report or the media coverage their letter to the BBC generated…

    The amended BBC article that was originally posted by Finn Mac Cool ~ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-13826759

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