THE cost of prescribing methadone to drug addicts has soared by 84 per cent over the last five years, it has emerged.
According to the Scottish Government's official statistics, the cost of providing the heroine substitute to addicts has risen from £9,049,792 in 2003-4 to £16,637,636 in 2008-09.
The revelation led to Scottish Conservative calls for the SNP Government to wean addicts off methadone by ensuring that it is no longer the treatment of "first resort".
Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie said: "These are bone-chilling figures. Even in the past year alone the cost of prescribing methadone has risen by over 10 per cent."
Her calculation on methadone spending under the SNP administration was done by comparing the 2008-9 figure with the £14,924,067 spent in 2007-8.
She said: "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."
There are now 22,000 addicts in Scotland on a methadone programme, but Scottish Conservatives have been sceptical of the widespread use of methadone as a drug treatment.
A study by Glasgow University's Centre for Drug Misuse Research late last year found that people on methadone programmes still take heroin, and still commit crimes to help pay for their habit.
There is also concern the programme replaces one addictive drug with another, and that people are "parked" on methadone for years with little hope of giving it up. Recent research found only 3 per cent of those treated with methadone were drug-free after three years.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Increases in methadone prescribing costs are largely because the costs of production have risen – not because the number of those receiving treatment have similarly increased. Just over one year ago we published Scotland's first drug strategy since devolution. It was widely welcomed by experts, Cosla and approved unanimously by parliament. Central to the strategy is the concept of recovery from problem drug use. We want to see more people move on from their drug use, towards drug-free lives as an active and contributing member of society.
"We want a much wider range of services for drug users and that is what the new Delivery Framework will help local partners deliver. We are transforming the delivery of drug services to ensure that help is available when people need it most."
Published Date: 05 July 2009
By Tom Peterkin Scottish Political Editor
Source - http://news.scotsman.com/health/Cost-of-methadone-prescriptions-.5430113.jp