Drug users hooked on methadone are pleading with the Government to help them get off drugs completely instead of just parking them on the heroin substitute.
One former addict, Rosie, told The Times methadone is “almost more of a poison than heroin, there doesn’t ever seem to be an end to it”.
And Jay, who started smoking heroin before he was 18, said he was given methadone in prison, instead of getting help to become drug-free.
Jay said: “Most junkies I know want to be clean but if you can’t do it when you’re inside, when can you?”
And he commented: “I came out needing drugs as much as when I went in.”
The Government is increasing its spending on methadone programmes, despite their low success rate, while only 850 prison inmates were put on an abstinence routine last year.
Residential-based abstinence programmes lasting at least a month have a one in four success rate, but after three years on methadone only three per cent of addicts are drug free, recent studies show.
Commentators have pointed out that the methadone industry itself is lucrative.
Professor Neil McKeganey, who works at the Centre for Drug Misuse at the University of Glasgow, said: “There’s considerable financial incentive that drug users remain drug dependent.”
The Times reports that GPs in many parts of the country get paid around £220 per methadone patient per year and that pharmacists can get £200 administration fees plus about £1.50 per administered dose.
Kathy Gyngell, a drugs policy analyst for the Centre for Policy Studies, said prescribing methadone to young offenders has become routine.
She added: “It might appear the easier option but it leads to longer term problems.
“Individuals who historically used their short sentences to gain clean time now feel the necessity to carry on using methadone, as it takes no effort other than presenting themselves at the healthcare door to get it.”
The Times’ report concluded with the words of Jay, who is still a drug addict and expects to end up in prison again soon.
He was asked why he didn’t just accept methadone every day instead of searching the street for heroin.
Jay replied: “But where would it get me?
“All right, the craving for smack’s not there but you soon get the craving for the meth.
“Nobody I know on a heroin ‘script is getting any better. They’re just surviving.”
Commentator Melanie Reid said methadone programmes make drug users into victims rather than encouraging them to transform their behaviour.
An editorial in Wednesday’s Times asked why the State has “allowed itself to become drug dealer-in-chief”.
The article continued: “Worst of all, methadone is an admission of failure.
“It offers no cure beyond lulling people into an ambitionless state of numbness.
“It should not be allowed to have the same effect on the debate that it has on its users.
“If methadone is the only solution on offer, we are not asking the right question”, the editorial said.