Methadone 'makes addicts of prisoners'

By chillinwill · Nov 22, 2009 · ·
  1. chillinwill
    Thinktank says inmates are swapping one addiction for another

    Britain's prison system churns out thousands of prisoners addicted to methadone, according to a thinktank with close links to the Tories.

    The Centre for Policy Studies claims that many inmates on the heroin substitute have little chance of being weaned off. The CPS obtained figures from the government showing a 57% increase in the number of prisoners on methadone "maintenance" programmes, up from 12,518 in 2007 to 19,632 last year.

    Last year, 45,135 prisoners were placed on detoxification programmes which mostly involved them being placed on methadone. Of 140,000 prisoners passing through the jail system last year, more than 60,000 would have received methadone or another substitute, buprenorphine.

    The rise is in part due to the roll-out of the Integrated Drug Treatment System (IDTS), part of the government's strategy to break the link between crime and addiction. But it has led to concerns that prisoners are swapping one addictive drug (heroin) for another (methadone) with little chance of getting clean.

    Kathy Gyngell, policy analyst with the CPS and author of The Phoney War on Drugs, said: "The government is creating a huge… social problem because nobody is putting money into alternative programmes."

    Gyngell said alternative psychological-based treatments were needed. In contrast to the thousands of prisoners on methadone, Gyngell pointed out that only 850 had been placed on a 12-step detoxification programme that involves talking therapies and has been shown to work.

    A Department of Health report noted: "The home affairs select committee recommended that methadone maintenance should be available across the prison estate. There has been considerable unease around this practice within the Prison Service."

    Many drugs experts argue, however, that methadone plays a key role in tackling addiction. "It would be a mistake to rule methadone out of recovery altogether," said a spokesman for the drugs charity Addaction.

    A Ministry of Justice spokesman said the increase in methadone prescriptions was a result of the government's commitment to tackling drug dependence among prisoners.

    Jamie Doward
    November 22, 2009
    The Guardian

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  1. Helene
    This idea of "placing" addicts on a 12-step programme really bothers me. Even in a prison context, people should have the ability to chose what type (if any) of detox programme they wish to follow. 12-step programmes have been "shown to work" when people chose to follow them. A huge part of the 12-step thinking is that people must want to get (and stay) clean. Nobody can be forced to do so, not with any success at any rate. 12-step programmes would not work for someone who was forced to partake.

    I agree with Kathy Gyngell (author of above quote, policy analyst with the CPS) that in the UK prison system psychological treatments and other alternatives should be made available to prisoners, and that money for drug rehabilitation should not be spent on methadone maintanance alone. But these alternative treatments and psychological therapies should be on offer in addition to substitute meds, not instead of them. Also, these "psychological" treatments should not be limited to the 12-step ideology, and addicts should be able to have a say in the direction that their treatment and recovery will follow.

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