Drug experts defend methadone use

Leading medical experts have warned that scrapping methadone as a treatment for heroin addiction could lead to a rise in crime, HIV and drug deaths.

A group of 40 specialists from around the world have outlined their concerns in a letter to The Scotsman newspaper.

The experts expressed dismay about the “continuing misrepresentation” of the evidence on the effectiveness of the treatment.

They said methadone should be readily available to all addicts seeking help.

The group – which includes university professors and doctors who treat addicts – wrote in the letter: “No treatment in medicine works every time but methadone treatment has helped more people in the world overcome their problems with heroin than any other.” It went on: “If policy makers were to heed the critics’ advice to close down methadone treatment or impose an arbitrary time limit on its administration, the community can anticipate more overdose deaths, more HIV and more crime.”

The letter is a response to comments from Professor Neil McKeganey, director of the Centre for Drug Misuse Research at the University of Glasgow, who said last week more effort was needed to get people off drugs, including methadone, through abstinence.

Professor McKeganey has defended his views and claimed the signatories to the letter did not understand the extent of the drugs problem in Scotland, where 22,000 addicts are on methadone.

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