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Government policy leaves prisoners addicted to methadone.

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009 Government policy leaves prisoners addicted to methadone.

In-fighting by the government holding back efforts to help prisoners overcome heroin addiction, according to a former government drugs advisor.

Mike Trace has said that many prisoners were being prescribed methadone as a substitute to heroin, rather than being encouraged to live their lives free of drugs.

The Government say that there are more prisoners receiving the treatment that they need.

The Department of Health funded the administration of methadone as a form of treatment to 20,000 inmates in England in 2008; a 57% rise compared to 2007.
Mr Trace, said: “When they (inmates) see the healthcare professionals they are offered, sometimes the only choice they are offered, is a prescription of some type,
which means their motivation to try to remain drug-free can be undermined.

“We see that regularly on a week-by-week basis.” Health ministers had agreed to spend £40m on drug services in prisons “not because they love methadone, it’s because they want to take control of prison drug treatment”, he added.

Mark Easton, home editor at the BBC, said: “Methadone can be an effective tool in helping heroin addicts conquer their addiction but critics argue that too often drug services use it as an easy option and are not ambitious enough in getting users ‘clean’.”

The Department of Health and Ministry of Justice released a joint statement that’s said: “It is categorically untrue to say methadone is used as any sort of control mechanism. Decisions regarding treatment are clinically based.

“The programme includes abstinence, but all treatments are aimed at getting the person off drugs.

“The rise in prisoners getting methadone treatment means more prisoners are getting the treatment they need and there has been significant investment in prison clinical drug treatment to help this happen.”

Conservative home secretary, Dominic Grieve, agreed with the comments made by Mr Trace and said that there has been a shift in government policy from abstinence to dependency.

He said: “Methadone-based treatment may be suitable for someone in prison for a short time on remand and has a serious drug problem.

“But what is happening is that effectively the prison service has become content in doling out methadone as an alternative to tackling the underlying problems these people have - it’s quite wrong.”

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