When it comes to treating drug addiction, a number of different treatments are used by rehabilitation centres, including counselling, therapy, and 12-step work. For those who are dealing with a heroin addiction, a substance known as methadone is often prescribed.
Methadone is a manufactured opiate designed to be used as a substitute for heroin in the treatment of addiction. The idea is that it will prevent withdrawal symptoms, and the patient can then be weaned off the drug gradually until he or she no longer needs it. Unfortunately, this does not always happen, and there have been reports of individuals being left on methadone for years.
Critics believe that heroin users who are prescribed methadone are just swapping one addiction for another. There is also the risk of overdose when methadone is taken with alcohol, which often happens.
The money spent on methadone prescriptions in Dundee is twice as high as the national average, although there appears to be some good news for the city in that the number of prescriptions handed out in 2015 dropped for the first time since 2011.
The number of methadone prescriptions administered in Dundee in 2014 was 20,957. However, that number had dropped to 20,387 in 2015. Although this is the first time this figure has dropped, the amount spent every year has been decreasing due a reduction in the cost per unit of methadone.
News of the decline in prescriptions will be welcomed, but there is still a lot of work to be done to tackle the issue of methadone use in the city considering that the amount spent per 1,000 people in Dundee was £1,660 compared to just £771 nationally.
Lead clinician for Tayside Substance Misuse Service, Dr Brian Kidd, said, “It is important to be very cautious when interpreting minor fluctuations in this kind of data as apparent changes in the number of prescriptions can simply reflect changes in the way prescriptions are dispensed.”
Not everyone is critical of methadone as a treatment for heroin addiction. In fact, Andrew Smith, who is a pharmacist at St Mary’s Pharmacy in Dundee, said, “For some people, methadone is a ‘helping hand’ to get them through a short heroin addiction, and they eventually manage to wean themselves off methadone. In other people, it becomes a quite severe coping mechanism.”
He said that while some individuals do not show any signs of being able to come off methadone, it did not mean that the drug was not helping them. He added, “Some users can be prescribed methadone for 20 years, but this allows them to have a job and to be involved in society. You can have a person try to come off it after the 20 years, and they just can’t cope without it — it’s too much of a crutch.”
While many advocate the use of methadone for the treatment of heroin addiction, others believe there are more effective and suitable treatments available, including detox and rehabilitation. Although it is tough to overcome a drug addiction, it is not impossible.
Here at UKAT, we have seen people with the most severe types of drug addiction overcoming their illnesses and going on to have healthy and fulfilling sober lives. We understand that the risk of relapse is always present for those in recovery, but we firmly believe that with the right level of commitment and with access to a good support network, it is possible to go on to conquer addiction for good.
If you or a loved one is affected by addiction, contact UKAT today for advice and information on how to access treatment.
If you successfully complete our 90-day inpatient treatment program, we guarantee you'll stay clean and sober, or you can return for a complimentary 30 days of treatment.