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International News

United Kingdom: Prejudice About Addiction Risks Thwarting New Policy

September 3, 2010

Stigma against drug users is a critical barrier to their treatment and social reintegration, according to the first installment of a four-part study by the independent UK Drugs Policy Commission (UKDPC).

Heroin and crack cocaine use, especially, can carry a "stigma life sentence," the report said. For instance, two-thirds of employers said they would not hire a former heroin or crack user, even if he or she were suitable in all other respects, an earlier UKDPC survey found.

Some Tory reformers criticize methadone maintenance therapy, in which users are prescribed methadone for a prolonged, indeterminate period, as "parking" drug users. While evidence for methadone maintenance is strong, stigma against it as a "non-treatment" limits its expansion and optimal delivery, according to studies the UKDPC report cited.

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See Also
Ask Our Expert, David Fawcett, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., About Substance Use and HIV
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Reader Comments:

Comment by: WSH1973 (USA) Sat., Sep. 4, 2010 at 9:29 am EDT
You hit the nail on the head "Parking drug users." Zenith (Kerry Wolf)founder of AT Watchdog has been on and off MMT for over 20 years. This organization is only for Methadone and Suboxone patients, they are opposed to NA/AA. Methadone deaths have more than tripled all over the world in the last decade.These hardcore Certified Methadone Advocates are running scared due to MMT Clinics, Pain Management Clinics and Doctors in private practice are being closed for over prescribing while killing innocent victims.Because of Methadone's halflife one 10 mg pill can be found in the body as long as 3 days later.Hogwash, clinics continuely increase a patients dosage preventing withdrawals but not for the reason you may think. Methadone is a cheap alternative... it is Big Business for Pharm Company's and Doctor's. Patients detoxing is the last thought on their minds. Good for the UK stepping up to protect their people and the reality we are faced with.
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Comment by: Zenith15 (USA) Sat., Sep. 4, 2010 at 1:51 am EDT
The assumption that current methadone patients cannot be employed but must be "held in addiction" is ludicrous in the extreme. DO we also urge schizophrenics, bipolar patients, and those taking antidepressant drugs for major depression to discontinue medication? They are all taking "mood altering medications" for disturbances of the brain chemistry--and this is what methadone is taken for as well.

Opioid users often either begin using due to, or develop over the period of using, a deficiency in the production of natural opiates--endorphins. This cases severe mental and physical symptoms that drive the patients to relapse repeatedly just to feel normal. Methadone stabilizes the brain by replacing the natural endorphins. This does not cause a high or euphoria in stable patients, and patients have been studied over and over and shown to have no cognitive impairments of their ability to drive, work, parent, etc.

In the USA, the majority of methadone patients ARE employed, and pay in full for their own treatment from day one. Many work in white collar professional fields such as nursing, law, teaching, business ownership, etc. Doses in the USA are usually well within the average required amount to ensure control of symptoms--80 to 120 mgs--while in the UK, the average dose is less than half of the lower end of the average required dose (30 to 40 mgs). This means that many patients become ill each night as their dose wears off prematurely, and continue using street drugs in an effort to stop the withdrawals. This would make employment difficult, obviously. Yet, rather than fix this glaring dosing error, the UK wants to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
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