Monday, August 23, 2010

Tory drug dependence policy expected to make things worse

Over on Conservative Home,  Tim Montgomerie reports that the Home Office is going to start a new drug addiction treatment regime, with the aim of getting people off the drugs, rather than simply giving them a substitute addiction.

This raises many complex questions about the treatment of addiction. In fact, the present system does encourage withdrawal, gradually, with the co-operation of the addict. If the Tories insist on a faster withdrawal regime, the reasonable expectation will be that the addicts will supplement their official allowance with drugs brought from the proceeds of crime. Tests will show up this supplement, and the Tories will probably sling them off the treatment course, which will push crime up yet further.

This does not mean that the present system should not be reformed.

First, there is much doubt about the use of methadone (physeptone) as a heroin substitute. It is used because it blocks withdrawal without giving it a high, but it can still kill in overdose, and it seems from reports that it is harder to withdraw from than heroin. There is evidence that giving legitimate heroin is a better approach.

Second, a large proportion of addicts have been abused in some way in early life, and are using the drugs to cover the pain of remembered abuse. As a psychiatrist, I have acquired two very effective and efficient ways of helping with these traumas. One neutralises the toxic effect of abusive persons, ("Cutting the Ties"), and the other, the "Rewind technique" from the Human Given Institute, neutralises the toxic influence of traumatic events. In association with other proven supportive techniques, these approaches to the root cause of addiction should be tried, in order to achieve less relapse.

I have offered my services, free of charge initially, to local drug services and also to the local prison. The prison has not responded even to acknowledge my (three) letters, and the drug services were not interested and in one case actively obstructed me as a GP from treating one of their "clients" psychologically. I learned in the process that drug services are not required to audit their success/failure rates in any way.

Third, 90% of the heroin and morphine on our streets comes from Afghanistan. The Government (by which I mean the last lot; maybe we should try to see if the ConDems are more prepared than Labour to see sense. I doubt it), the Government  is irrationally opposed to the obvious solution of purchasing the Afghan poppy crop, and using it medicinally, not least in relieving terminal pain in Africa, which would at the same time give the new Afghan Government a chance of success over the insurgents and Taliban. 

The present system needs reforming and improving. It is sclerotic and unresponsive to change. However, I doubt that the proposals put forward by Home Office Minister James Brokenshire will do anything but make things worse. Addiction policy needs to be science-led, not by emotion, and people need to remember that £1 spent on drug services, even with the present creaky system, saves up to £7 on the costs of theft, burglary, police time, court time and victim support inflicted by drug addiction.

I suppose I should write to the Home Office. Is it all just a waste of time? Drugs policy is run by emotion, not science, and not even economics. The Home Office is looking for the approval of the Mordorch Press and the Daily Mail, not better outcomes for addicts and society.

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