Heroin users should be helped to get completely drug-free rather than being left hooked on a legal substitute, Iain Duncan Smith says.
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, the Work and Pensions Secretary said drug addicts should be helped to move from “dependence to independence”.
He said the Government had made a “promising start” in changing drugs policy to favour recovery. However, he added there is “still a huge amount more” needed.
Duncan Smith commented that the “accepted wisdom for too long was to maintain people in dependency”, using the legal substitute for heroin, methadone.
He said that previously “drug treatment became a tick-box exercise, so concerned with ‘harm reduction’ that people were put on methadone at any cost”.
“This in turn spawned a whole industry whose very interest is to keep people on the drug, too often merely replacing one addiction with another”, he commented.
He said that despite a change in policy, “it remains that the culture of prescribing methadone has proved incredibly stubborn and difficult to break”.
He continued: “There is still a huge amount more that Government must do, so that in practice treatment is about full recovery instead of maintenance.”
Duncan Smith also challenged the Government’s advisory panel on drugs which recently opposed a suggestion to introduce a cut-off point on keeping users on methadone.
He said the group should look again at its decision, “taking account of the harm done to individuals parked on methadone indefinitely, rather than providing cover for perpetuating drug addiction in the UK”.
He concluded: “This approach requires that we fight vested interests and challenge the status quo.”
Last year Government figures in Scotland showed methadone had killed more people than heroin.
Dr Brian Kidd, who led the report behind the statistics, said there was little evidence of a “real impetus” for addicts who were using methadone to recover.