Almost unbelievably the UK governments new ten year strategy to reduce the use of class-A drugs fails to take an in depth look at the type of treatment available to drug addicts. Which is a massive flaw if one considers the main purpose of the strategy is to edge people who are experiencing problems due to their drug use on to government sponsored treatment programs. The only conclusion one can draw from this omission is the government in its naïvety believes the current drug treatment programs available are perfectly adequate, which is about as far from reality as one can get.
Eighty percent of the treatment programs currently in use revolve around an oral methadone prescription; and before anyone get any illusions about this prescription, this is not a methadone prescription tailored to the addict’s needs, but a one size fits all program that was first brought into use in the early 1980s; and which was opposed at the time by many people who have some understanding of drug addiction. The only reason the government uses this outdated method of treating drug addicts is because it is cheap and it separates addicts from other users of the NHS and thus it allows the politicians to claim they are doing something without in the process upsetting their constituents, who regard addicts as the lowest of the low, due to the way the media and it has to be said politicians portray class A addicts.
What the current treatment program consists of is the addict going along to a Drug Dependency Unit run by the local health authority approximately twice a month, where they will be given a prescription for a oral methadone to be picked up from a local chemist daily. In the majority of cases the only time the addict will see a doctor is on a single occasion when the doctor writes up the addicts first prescription.
It makes no difference whether the addict has been addicted for thirty years or one year, whether they are snorting, smoking or injecting their narcotic of choice, each will receive a similar dosage of methadone. (Strict guidelines are set between twenty and one hundred mils of oral methadone)
An addict who has spent decades injecting street heroin would need a prescription for injectable methadone if they are to have any hope of stabilizing let alone coming off drugs completely. Better still to provide them with pharmaceutical heroin. Thus for them the current treatment offered is little better than useless. Whilst a youngster who has been using for less than a year should not be provided with a methadone prescription without first being given the opportunity to come off drugs completely, as a methadone prescription will only reinforce her/his addiction.
What those who have been using class A drugs for a comparatively short time really need is to be taken out of their drug fueled environment and sent beyond their home area to a Treatment Centre, the duration of their stay must at the very least be from three to six months. During which they will gradually be weaned, both physically and psychologically, off all class A drugs whilst living in a closed drug free environment. At the end of this period of their treatment they will still need a considerable degree of after care support, and help with finding work, accommodation etc if that is their wish.
This may sound and indeed is expensive, but if successful it is money well spent as this type of treatment has a better than average success rate; and if one considers that the government in all likelihood is going to pay business and certain charities up to fifty thousand pounds to get a long term unemployed person back into the world of work, one gets a better perspective of the costs involved.
It should also not be overlooked that twenty percent of class A drug users are either prepared or willing to consider going cold turkey, these are people who are showing enormous courage for it is the fear of cold turkey that keeps most long term addicts addicted. If a user is prepared to take that titanic step, the very least the State should do is provide them with a safe and secure environment in which they can pass through their very own calvary and make no mistake calvary is the perfect description for going cold turkey.
To expect an addict to go cold turkey at home borders on crass stupidity and sadism. Those who work in the drug treatment field must also move beyond the silly notion that if it does not hurt, addicts will never stay drug free; and give the addicts some medical relief from the sleeplessness which all those going through cold turkey experience.
Indeed it is the inability to sleep and thus by doing so gain some respite from their suffering, that is the number one cause of addicts giving up their attempt to become drug free. For this inability to sleep can last months, in some cases years and the same goes for diarrhea. Yet still the medical profession refuses to prescribe sleeping tablets or anti diarrhea medication to withdrawing addict, on the pretext that by doing so they will be adding to the addicts problems. What this in reality means is the doctor prefers the addict to stay addicted to street narcotics than risk them having a minor problem with a mild prescription drug. Can you imagine any doctor treating a patient suffering from any other serious illness in a similar manner.
I am not suggesting prescription methadone does not have an important role to play when it comes to treating those who are unfortunate enough to become addicted to opiates, it does. However if there is to be real progress all treatment programs must be tailored to the individual history and needs of the addict who puts themselves into the hands of the health professionals. Indeed it is time drug addicts were treated by the medical profession in the same manner as that profession treat those who are suffering from other serious diseases.
Over all, the governments new class A drugs strategy suffers from the same shortcoming as previous New Labour strategies that covered schools, hospitals and local communities. The people who it effects the most, in this case the class A drug users, have not been asked to contribute when the strategy was drawn up, thus an elephant sat in the room whilst the government announced its new class A drugs strategy.