'Complete abstinence' replaces Methadone for prisoners

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab has suggested that providing Methadone for prisoners withdrawing from Heroin should be stopped.

The decision based on his argument that Methadone isn’t helping the prisoner get clean, it is merely weaning them off one drug and onto another. He argues an abstinence-based approach would prove a better solution, especially in the long term.

After assessing the data provided by Justice Data Lab which found that female inmates following abstinence programmes were 40 per cent less likely to reoffend than those who were completely different drug addiction treatments.

At the moment individuals who are addicted to Heroin or other opioids are given Methadone as a substitute to help withdrawals. According to some professionals the drug can be more addictive than heroin.

According to the Telegraph, Mr Raab believes that this approach has left too many prisoners taking the substitute drug to avoid causing harm to themselves and others in prison. Rather than trying to get clean.

Think Tank Reform estimate that one in seven prisoners are addicts. It is clear that drug addiction in prison has been on the rise – six per cent in 2014 to 15 per cent in 2019.

There may be a lot of debate around the decision as some professionals argue that methadone is an effective treatment and without it, there could be a lot more destruction.

Speaking to the Commons Justice Committee this week, Mr Raab said:

“Too many offenders are placed on methadone and other opiate substitutes because it puts prevention of harm… to individual offenders, other offenders and prison officers at the forefront.

“That might be fine temporarily but methadone is harder to get off than heroin. It is more addictive than heroin.

“You have to ask yourself if they are staying on it indefinitely, how much is that driving towards recovery.”

He added: 'We want to get a better balance,' he said, which would include early assessment, treatments with a 'much stronger focus on eventual recovery and therefore ending the addiction dependency rather than replacing it'.

Julie Muir, executive director of recovery at the Forward Trust, told the Telegraph that abstinence-based programmes are used both inside and outside prison.

She said: 'Addiction is a serious mental illness and not a choice. It has a devastating impact on people's lives.

'As a society we need to do more to ensure everyone has the opportunity of recovery, no matter who they are.'

Niamh Eastwood, executive director of Release, a centre for drug expertise, also spoke to the Daily Mail and said abstinence had a role, but warned against downplaying the value of methadone which had been shown by multiple studies to be an effective medical treatment.

'Methadone demonstrably saves thousands of people's lives. This kind of rhetoric does nothing to help reduce the number of deaths and could contribute to a higher rate of deaths as community services take it as a signal from Government that methadone should not be supported,' she said.

The decision may cause a roaring debate, but what do you think?