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Quality of treatment for heroin users under threat

Quality of treatment for heroin users under threat from shrinking resources and disruptive re-procurement processes.


A report published today by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) says high quality drug treatment for heroin users is cost-effective and benefits both individuals and society, and that that everyone with heroin dependency should have access to high quality drug treatment.

The ACMD found that the current quality of drug treatment in England varies significantly and is being compromised by frequent re-procurement and shrinking resources.

The report calls for investment in drug treatment to be protected and a national quality improvement programme to be implemented. It also recommends that ‘churn’ in local systems should be reduced and that more must be done to stop discrimination against people in recovery from heroin addiction.

The report was written for the Inter-Ministerial Group on Drugs, which asked the ACMD’s Recovery Committee to examine how opioid substitution therapy could be improved to get better results for those suffering heroin addiction.

Annette Dale-Perera, co-chair of the ACMD’s Recovery Committee, said:

Government has done well to achieve widespread recovery-orientated drug treatment for heroin users. Treatment protects against drug related death, ill health, chaos caused by addiction, and crime and can help people turn their lives around, We need to act to improve and not lose this valuable asset to society.

Professor Les Iversen, chair of the ACMD, added:

The ACMD Recovery Committee has provided a comprehensive review of the use of opioid drugs to help heroin addicts recover from their addiction. The committee concludes that the available evidence shows that such treatment can be very effective, and recommends how to optimise this therapy.

Today’s report, ‘How can opioid substitution therapy be optimised to maximise recovery outcomes for service users?’ is the second and final part of the ACMD’s research on this topic. The first part of the report was published in November 2014 and found that imposing a time limit on treatment would result in the majority of addicts relapsing into heroin use with serious unintended consequences, including increased drug driven crime; heroin overdose; deaths and the spread of some blood borne viruses.

The report

Published 23 October 2015