The Yorkshire Post: June 20th 2011
Treating problem drug users and their benefits costs £3.6bn a year, a report has said.
Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke plans to change the way authorities tackle drug addiction, diverting more people with drug problems away from prison and into treatment as part of a “rehabilitation revolution”.
But the Government’s plans for payment-by-results schemes are “doomed to failure, not least because they are being run by the very organisations responsible for the current failure of policy”, the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) report said.
Rewarding providers who can show addicts have improved their health and employment prospects, have not offended and who are not in treatment for drugs, was “seriously misguided”, it said.
“Solving the drug problem means recognising the problem for what it is: one of addiction.
“The solution lies in freeing people from it, not by measuring proxy outcomes (which are easy to manipulate).”
The report adds: “There is one simple measure of success: that of six months abstinence from drugs.”
Kathy Gyngell, chairwoman of the prisons and addictions policy forum at the CPS and the report’s author, said prescribing methadone to drug addicts delays their recovery from addiction and has been “extremely expensive”.
The annual cost of maintaining treatment and paying benefits to the 320,000 problem drug users is £3.6bn, the report estimated. This includes £1.7bn in benefits, £1.2bn for looking after the children of drug addicts and £730m for prescribing methadone.
It’s also pointed out that there were as many addicts today as there were in 2004/05. A Department of Health spokesman said: “The 2010 Drug Strategy is fundamentally different from those that have gone before. “Instead of focusing primarily on reducing the harms caused by drug misuse, our approach will be to go much further and offer every support for people to choose recovery as an achievable way out of dependence.
“The aim is to get people into treatment and off drugs for good and back into work.” He went on: “Following a public consultation, Building Recovery in Communities, work is under way to support local recovery systems tailored to the needs of communities, many of which are already showing positive results.”