Helping addicts get off drugs will save millions

Investment in drug rehabilitation programmes could save millions of pounds, the Scottish Government says.

New figures suggest that helping addicts come off drugs completely could see a £9.50 benefit to the economy for every £1 spent.

According to the study the savings would be made in treating addicts, methadone prescriptions, crime reductions and spending on prisons and legal procedures.

The figures, based on research carried out in England and Wales, show that each of Scotland’s 52,000 drug addicts is currently costing the country around £50,000.

Investing £94 million in recovery programmes over the next three years could save Scotland £893 million.

Fergus Ewing MSP, the Scottish Minister for Community Safety, released the figures. He said: “Treatment does work, and we should be optimistic about that.”

There have been increasing calls for a move away from prescribing addicts with substitute drugs like methadone, which they can remain hooked on for years.

Earlier this year, Scottish ministers said they planned to focus less on such so-called ‘harm reduction’ approaches in future and invest instead in recovery programmes.

However, last month the Government came in for criticism as its total spending on such ‘harm reduction’ programmes had increased by 19 per cent on the previous year.

According to recent figures, the Western Isles was the only health board in the country not to increase its spending on methadone last year.

Earlier this year one Scottish prison said so many of its prisoners needed regular supplies of methadone that it could not cope with any more inmates.