Drug addicts are not victims, says sociology expert

Heroin addiction should not be described as an illness, a leading sociologist has said.

Stuart Waiton, a sociology lecturer at Abertay University, argued that the methadone programme in Scotland is not working.

He was responding to a front page story picturing heroin addicts passed out on the doorstep of a family’s flat.


Dr Waiton said: “The problem we have today is that society finds it difficult to hold people to account for their actions.

“The idea of moral responsibility is very weak because we assume that everyone’s a victim.”

The lecturer described methadone treatment for heroin users as a “disaster” because it “encourages the idea that people on heroin have an illness”.

Moral question

He said that heroin addicts do not have an illness and that drug addiction is a “moral question”.

Dr Waiton argued that people “have the capacity to change themselves” but that at the moment society “has a very low opinion of people”.

The latest figures show that there were 526 drug-related deaths in Scotland last year, 66 per cent higher than ten years ago.


Statistics from the National Records of Scotland found that heroin was implicated in 221 deaths in 2013.

Figures also showed that methadone was implicated in 41 per cent of drug-related deaths last year.

Jackson Carlaw, Scottish Conservative health spokesman, also raised concerns about the scale of the heroin problem in Scotland.


He commented: “For years, we have said too many addicts are parked on a methadone programme that offers little or no hope of recovery.”

Mr Carlaw said that pushing abstinence-based treatment would “present those struggling with addiction a realistic and achievable aspiration to beat this evil harness once and for all.”

Earlier this week, the Global Commission on Drug Policy released a report which pushed for countries to “Stop criminalizing people for drug use and possession”.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme about the proposal, drug misuse expert Neil McKeganey said the idea would “dismantle the entire criminal justice framework” of countries worldwide.

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