The Scottish government has concluded that methadone should continue to be used to treat heroin addicts in Scotland, according to a new review.
The independent Scottish Drugs Strategy Delivery Commission was set up in the wake of concern over the role of methadone in drug-related deaths.
It is the most widely used opioid replacement therapy, with more than 20,00 patients receiving it last year.
However, in some cases users take it for years without ever being fully weaned off it.
Other alternatives exist, such as prescribing medical heroin, but many healthcare professionals have argued that more emphasis needs to be put on examining the wider needs of drug users.
The commission was tasked with investigating methadone and its holistic effect on patient health, wellbeing and recovery to ask whether it should continue to be offered as a treatment.
Following the review, the group concluded that the system used to reimburse pharmacists for dispensing methadone needs further investigation and that while methadone should continue to be used as a treatment, it should be used alongside other options, including community and residential rehabilitation.
The report also recommended looking into how to better address the link between health inequalities and problem substance use, discussing how substance misuse treatment can be best provided through community pharmacists and GPs and improving local information systems and communication paths between all parties involved in treatment.
Dr Brian Kidd, who was appointed by Scotland’s chief medical officer Dr Harry Burns to look into the issue of opioid replacement therapies, said: “I hope your findings will provide the basis on which the Scottish government and local care providers can work to improve drug treatment and enable more people to go on to lead a life free of drug-related problems.”
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