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Last Updated: Monday, 23 July 2007, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
Heroin treatment at record levels
Methadone being poured into cup
Methadone is used to help treat heroin addicts
The number of people treated for heroin addiction in Scotland has reached record levels, according to figures.

About 21,000 people are now said to use heroin substitute methadone - 10% more than previously thought - with a third of them caring for children under 16.

The statistics are contained in a series of reports published by the Scottish government.

A review was ordered after the death of toddler Derek Doran. Ministers have backed the continued use of the drug.

Derek died after drinking methadone he found in his home two weeks after his second birthday.

Put simply, involvement in a methadone programme means an addict no longer needs to inject drugs
Dr Harry Burns
Scotland's chief medical officer

Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing has promised improved services to help more methadone users back into drug-free lives.

He said: "It is clear that methadone does have an important part to play in tackling heroin addiction. The benefits it can bring in terms of harm reduction are well established.

"Methadone can stabilise chaotic lives and has a positive impact on the lives of many people who are treated with it. Experts have concluded that it is entirely appropriate for methadone to be the major element of the treatment available for opiate dependency.

"The report makes clear that there are, however, areas of concern about the use of methadone. Tackling those areas is a key priority for us.

"That means improving service delivery; improving consistency of provision; and, above all, improving integration of methadone treatment with the extra support needed to achieve the ultimate goal of recovery from addiction."

REVIEW FINDINGS
21,000 receiving methadone in the community
10,500 consume methadone under daily supervision
7,000 on methadone look after children under 16
Methadone viewed as most cost effective treatment

Mr Ewing said that drug treatment needs to be "more than a prescription service".

"Methadone must come with genuine rehabilitation to help addicts find a route out of drugs," he added.

Scotland's Chief Medical Officer, Dr Harry Burns, said the benefits of methadone were considerable and should not be understated.

He said: "Injecting drug users put themselves at significant risk of contracting blood borne viruses such as Hepatitis C from sharing injecting equipment.

"Bacterial infections from non-sterile equipment are also common, as is vascular damage arising from long-term drug use.

"Put simply, involvement in a methadone treatment programme means a drug addict no longer needs to inject drugs."

'One-trick-pony'

Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme that she welcomed the fact that figures on methadone usage were finally being compiled.

She said: "Methadone has to be one of the range of options and I have always held that view.

"What I criticised the last Scottish Executive for was the complete dearth of thinking about having other options available.

"It became a one-trick-pony. It was methadone virtually or nothing whereas I think there is a place for a range of options, particularly rehabilitation."

Labour justice spokeswoman Margaret Curran said: "There are serious implications for methadone dependent addicts and any efforts to address Scotland's drug problems with this treatment must be part of a wider solution that educates, supports and rehabilitates addicts and their families.

"I expect the SNP executive to look at these reports closely and put together a detailed strategy which addresses all of the challenges facing Scotland's drug users."


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Hear about the review recommendations



SEE ALSO
Birth control call for methadone
11 May 06 |  Scotland
Addicts' children 'to come first'
08 May 06 |  Scotland
Drug tests for parents discussed
20 Mar 06 |  Scotland
Child concern over drugs problem
07 Mar 06 |  Scotland
Dead toddler had drunk methadone
05 Mar 06 |  Scotland
McConnell call over heroin girl
18 Feb 06 |  Scotland

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