Methadone has killed more people in Scotland than heroin for the second year running, according to the latest Government figures.
The findings come after a review commissioned by the Scottish Government raised concerns about the £36 million methadone programme.
Methadone, the heroin substitute, caused 237 deaths last year, amounting to 41 per cent of all drug-related fatalities.
Methadone is provided by medics to addicts as a legal substitute for heroin, funded by the taxpayer.
It is supposed to reduce dependency on heroin, but critics say users just become “parked” on methadone instead.
The review chaired by Dr Brian Kidd, an addictions expert, said they found little evidence of a “real impetus” for addicts using methadone to recover.
But whilst the group has raised concerns about the methadone programme, it recommends that methadone should continue to be used to treat heroin addicts.
The system of giving methadone as a substitute to heroin addicts has repeatedly been criticised by campaigners and drug experts
Elaine Murray, Labour’s deputy justice spokeswoman, said, “for chaotic addicts” methadone “becomes yet another drug used with heroin and alcohol”.
“We need more than words and reports. We need action to tackle the scourge of addiction and provide support for people in becoming completely drug free.”
Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw voiced concerns there was no mention of “abstinence” in any of the report’s recommendations.
“That is an unambitious conclusion to reach and does nothing to ease fears we will simply continue parking people on alternatives with no hope of them getting their lives back on track.
“A tougher approach on this matter would help everyone, from addicts and their families to the victims of the crime many of them commit to fund their habit. Many regard the Scottish Government’s rhetoric on this issue as one of defeat.”
David Liddell, director of Scottish Drugs Forum, said: “The continued high level of drug related deaths in Scotland highlights the ongoing need to reduce fatalities especially among opiate (heroin) users, who remain – by far – the group most likely to die from drug use in Scotland.
A Times newspaper investigation in 2010 concluded that addicts were 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 that methadone is “almost more of a poison than heroin, there doesn’t ever seem to be an end to it”.