Ineffective or non-existent drug addiction treatment is causing unnecessarily high death rates and social costs according to a new survey by drug rehabilitation specialists.
While good drug treatment combines psychosocial support, such as therapy and support meeting, and medication, around half of all European drug dependent patients receive no psychosocial support. This is according to the latest data from the pan-EU EQUATOR survey which measures opioid treatment.
This may very well be due to the high use of methadone as the sole treatment for things like heroin addiction. Without proper counselling and supervision, many patients never step down of their high doses of methadone and end up simply adding it to the list of drugs the need each day to fuel their addiction.
This treatment method may seem cheap in the short term but when examining long term effects, it becomes much more expensive. In his speech at the London Summit of opioid dependence, Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Farrukh Alam said that for every £1 spent on treatment of drug dependence, society saves £2.50. This comes in the form of lower crime rates and decreased health service expenditure.
"Addiction is a chronic, complex and treatable disease... recovery can be optimised by combining psychosocial care with safe medications," said Dr Alam, Clinical Director of Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust.
Some specialists in the field believe the stigma associated with drug addiction could be one of the primary barriers to treatment. Headlines in the media often portray drug addicts as inherently bad rather than as a person with a recognised disease that requires treatment. This means many addicts may not seek help or even actively avoid it.
The economic costs of drug addiction were further underscored during a presentation by Debbie Holt, a Consultant in Substance Misuse. She said that crimes committed by drug addicts who were not in treatment cost on average £26,000 per individual, per year. The annual cost of all drug related crime is £13.0 billion.
Drugs are also a tremendous financial drain on their users. The typical heroin addict spends around £1,400 per month on heron, Hold said. She added that 4.9 million crimes are committed annually by drug addicts which costs the UK around £960 million to prosecute.
This makes treatment of drugs addiction a priority, not just for their sake, but for the sake of society as a whole.