No way out for problem drug users

A report published today by the independent Drug Policy Commission and discussed this morning on the BBC, has highlighted concerns about the effectiveness of treatment for problem drug users in the UK.

A report published today by the independent Drug Policy Commission and discussed this morning on the BBC, has highlighted concerns about the effectiveness of treatment for problem drug users in the UK.

The Huntercombe Group, which provides detox and rehab services to problem drug users, believes that a lack of appropriate support following treatment is a major factor that undermines treatment.

Mick Davies, Development Manager, said: “Whilst there have been many improvements in drug treatment in the UK, we often fail users who want to stop using drugs and move on. The focus of drug treatment has been very much on getting people into the treatment system by developing methadone programmes, needle exchange schemes and other responses that meet the users immediate need. Unfortunately, we have spent less effort on developing the services and supports that ensure that the user can come out the other end on the system. In practice this means detox, rehab and, crucially, a range of aftercare support including housing, employment skills, and family reconciliation.”

The difficulty in helping problem drugs users exit the treatment system has recently been acknowledged by the National Treatment Agency, and the Department of Health has made funding available to support the development of new residential services for problem drug users.

Mick Davies continued: “Whilst the new funding will help develop new buildings, the fundamental problem is that detox and rehab services are relatively high cost, and have to compete with less expensive community treatment, such as methadone prescribing, for revenue funding to keep them open. We are optimistic that in the future, improved cost benefit analysis may help funders make the decision to support placement into residential services for those people who most need them, but until we address the ongoing needs of users, the treatment system will always have limited long term effect”.

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