Handing out methadone to addicts isn’t working: Prof

Scottish drug addicts who receive methadone as a heroin substitute but are still hooked on the harder drug are proof the system is failing them, a Professor says.

Prof Neil McKeganey’s comments follow the case of a 34-year-old man who had received methadone for free from the state for nearly 20 years, despite admitting he had never given up heroin.

Martin Ramsey has now been taken off methadone after he failed a drugs test.

Drugs expert Prof McKeganey said: “Cases such as these, involving people who have been on methadone for such a long period of time, demonstrate the need for serious questions to be asked about what possible benefit the methadone programme has done for them.

“This is by no means an isolated case and it is clear that the system itself is addicted to supplying methadone to heroin addicts.”

Mr Ramsey had been receiving the state-funded drug every day since he was 16.

It is thought there are 22,000 addicts who are given methadone in Scotland.

Prof McKeganey, who is Director of the Centre for Drug Misuse Research at the University of Glasgow, said there needs to a be a “full review” to work out exactly how many people are on methadone.

He said: “Two years is the maximum anyone should be on a programme.

“After that there needs to be an intensive review of their treatment programme.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “It is for individual clinicians to decide on the most appropriate medical treatment for any person, taking into account their lifestyle and what stage they are at on the road to recovery.

“Inevitably, for some recovery will take longer than for others.”

In recent months the problems caused by methadone have been well documented.

In November think-tank the Centre for Policy Studies said the number of people in British prisons using methadone rose dramatically in 2008.

It reported figures obtained from the Government which said there were 19,632 prisoners on methadone as part of “maintenance programmes” in 2008 compared to 12,518 in 2007.

In 2008 the head of the Scottish Prison Service said jails in the country could hold an extra 1,400 prisoners if it wasn’t for the high number of inmates needing daily doses of methadone.

Earlier in the same year it was reported that there were more deaths in the Lothian region of Scotland that were linked to methadone than heroin.