Young addicts, some of the most vulnerable people in the UK, do not receive the treatment that they desperately need. The government currently sends these youths to secure units where they do not receive the therapy and support they require. The outcome is the continuation of their addiction and a much higher chance of reoffending when they are released.There are thousands of support networks for addicts, and specialised groups in which to beat a specific addiction. Yet one group of addicts are often without support. They're one of the most vulnerable and most likely to relapse, so why is there no help for child addicts?
It can cost up to £600 a day to keep a young offender in a secure unit, yet there is no treatment for the addiction that may have played a major part in their errant behavior. Youth justice resources tend to focused on incarcerating and containing, rather than helping children to overcome substance abuse. When released, these children often return to neglectful environments where their addictions are consistently nurtured, and so the cycle of crime continues.
Robbie, a child interviewed by the Guardian, is one such victim. Addicted to heroin from the age of 12, he has been in and out of secure units for a number of different crimes. When Robbie was first incarcerated, he asked if he could go on detox. Whilst this would seem like the best environment in which to do so, the secure unit preferred to give him methadone.
This synthetic opioid does not cure drug addiction, but manages it. Unlike adults who are able to accompany methadone with counselling and support, children are offered no such treatment. It is, in fact, illegal in the UK for adult services to treat a child. And what of child treatment centres? The only one left in the UK, Middlegate, was forced into liquidation last year.
The centre's supporters blamed the National Treatment Agency and their focus on funding cheaper treatment in the community. Yet treatment in the community is not, in actuality, cheaper. It cost £3,620 a week for a child to go on detox at Middlegate, but the managers pointed out that a week in a secure unit is more than £4,000. When you factor in the cost of an adult addict to society - including multiple crimes, incarcerations and treatments - a child addict who is not treated becomes an even more tragic case.
All addicts need support, counselling and rehabilitation, and it's about time we recognised it.