THE boss of a Burton rehabilitation centre has called on government ministers to honour commitments to move heroin addicts away from methadone treatment programmes.
Noreen Oliver, chief executive of Burton Addiction Centre, made the comments after the Centre for Social Justice think tank – which she is a chairman of – warned drink and drug abuse costs the UK £36 billion a year.
In 2010, Prime Minister David Cameron ordered a revised drug’s policy with greater emphasis on residential programmes rather than licensed drug substitutes such as methadone.
But the report, called No Quick Fix and made in the run up to the release of the centre’s strategic blueprint to tackle addiction in the UK, said since 2010 the Government has struggled to tackle heroin addiction.
The report found that almost a third of people who use drug-substitutes such as methadone have been using them for four or more years while one in 25 for more than 10 years.
Mrs Oliver told the Mail the UK is known as the ‘addicted man of Europe’ with levels of alcohol and drug abuse some of the highest on the continent.
And she added that not enough progress is being made in delivering effective treatment to the 300,000 users registered on treatment programmes.
“The report lays bare that not a lot has changed and we have not delivered on promises,” she said.
“We have made some progress but it is slow progress with the number of people on long-term methadone treatment programmes having increased.
“The Prime Minister made a commitment and said people have been parked on methadone. The county now needs to honour that commitment and stop messing around.”
Mrs Oliver said methadone based programmes, as opposed to abstinence-based treatment, keep the user ‘in poverty’ because it prevents them from re-integrating into society.
She said: “Methadone is harder to detox off than heroin and if you can’t stop using it then you are dependent.
“We need ministers to sit up and say the goal of treatment is abstinence.”
Mrs Oliver added that only 14 per cent of those using methadone are able to stop taking the drug but some rehabilitation centres have 60 per cent success rates with Burton’s centre hitting 72 per cent.
She said those who successfully complete a £6,000 12-week abstinence based rehabilitation programme are no longer committing crime to fund habits and also are able to find work.
This is significantly cheaper than the cost of methadone programmes coupled with the costs of addicts who find themselves in court, Mrs Oliver said.
Mrs Oliver added that while the think-tank’s report showed heroin use had fallen, this could be explained by some users taking legal highs.
Legal highs are drugs which mimic the effects of traditional drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy and cannabis.
They exploit legal loopholes by being marketed as research chemicals and marked ‘not for human consumption’.
The UK also appears to have become a base for websites selling these products with 130 registered sites and one in 12 young people admitted to using legal highs, Mrs Oliver said.
While the Government has banned some legal highs, scientists often working out of laboratories in China and India then make minor molecular tweaks to the banned substance creating a new and legal drug.
Mrs Oliver said: “I think we should ban them but that’s going to be very hard because there have been 150 new substances released since 2010 while just 15 have been banned.
“We need the Home Office to be much more alert and ban them as they appear rather than sitting back and waiting.”
The UK also has the second highest number of alcohol-dependent men in Western Europe, the think-tank’s report said.
Mrs Oliver said: “Alcohol is taking an increasing toll across all services in the UK and new emerging drugs are causing more harm.”