Methadone method works, says report

A new study will rekindle arguments over using methadone to counter Glasgow’s drug problem, finds Stephen Naysmith.

Glasgow could be losing its reputation as Europe‘s drug injecting capital. according to research into methadone treatment in the city.

The study. based on the work of two organisations. the Possil Drugs Project and the Easterhouse Drug Initiative. seems to hold significantjustification for the pro-methadone lobby. Both agencies report a considerable decline in levels of injecting among drug addicts. and a reduction in the number involved in crime.

In I99! well over two-thirds ofthe addicts using the two agencies were injecting their drugs. with all the attendant risks of disease transmission and infection. The new figures show that this has fallen to 25 per cent in Possil. and just under 50 per cent in Easterhouse. Meanwhile the report notes a ‘sustained and continually rising’ rate of new clients who have no fines. arrests or court appearances outstanding.

Alex Meikle. a researcher at Possil Drugs Project. points out that Glasgow has an estimated 8400 intravenous drug users: ‘That is the highest injecting rate per capita in the world. so if that is falling it is very good news.‘

The fact that fewer addicts are facing legal charges is an obvious benefit of the methadone programme. he claims. ‘If you are on a prescription you don‘t have to run about all day stealing to get it together. People get the chance to stop offending and re- establish contact with their families.‘

Meikle admits the figures are not representative of the total drug using population. ‘This is only people attending the services. and success is very dependent on other support. You can‘t take people from a fast. frantic lifestyle to being stabilised but having nothing to do. For all the disadvantages. in terms of stabilising people it is the best there is.‘

The ‘disadvantages’ are now well known: methadone is itselfan incredibly difficult drug to kick. Many ofthose on prescriptions use heroin and other drugs on top of their methadone. Much enters the black market. as addicts sell their doses on.

Many doctors refuse to have anything to do with prescribing it. Others are enthusiastic. believing it saves lives and benefits the economy by cutting crime and reducing the numbers ending up in prison.


. _ ..-

C; x 3 3m- Jse';\...ilt‘5 ;:‘:‘;:.'::;;;.;:: ..: I." V 1‘.“ HYDROCHLORIDE \Ew- ' I w _ Injection 8? “in g {snag in Sml ( 1% w/y}. g w v ; WT. ,w.._,....w.. _ ..-_,......-... . ....-.... .. - ' ., “‘rmmi‘mw‘zxw I I 1‘1: 3 a: :34: . -.: :AM .. -. ..l i W. , may.“ ., 3 iv m ~13 f s. MW.» mm at h x s g . , . a

Methadone: Cutting crlme and Inlectlng, accordlng to new study

However a new publication .luire epitomises the difficulty in sorting the arguments from the vested interests.

A glossy magaxine aimed purely at methadone users. it is distributed through drug agencies and paid for out of their budgets.

But is it information or advertising? Some of the contents are negative about methadone. others. such as a colourful abstract photograph showing the crystalline growth of the drug. (‘the first in a series‘) seem to glorify it. ‘Financial support‘ from Rosemont Pharmaceuticals. one of Britain's major methadone producers. makes it possible.

One ofthe contributors. Gary Sutton. is himself unsure of the magazine's motives. An addict for seventeen years. he has been on methadone programmes and currently works for a London clinic administering methadone.

However he is receiving a prescription for smokable heroin. and is critical of methadone and the way it is prescribed. He believes prescribing heroin would have the same. if not better results than those in the Glasgow study.

‘II is quite possible that if you gave the same people any opiate you‘d have got similar results a drop in crime and the number of people injecting.‘ he says. ‘Methadone gives people on a low income. whose lives are dictated by the need to procure opiates every

day. a chance to get off the treadmill.‘

Abandoning methadone programmes and preaching abstinence would be far worse. he claims. but that doesn‘t mean its use shouldn’t be examined. ‘We are giving people a drug. supposed to wean them off drugs. that the most eminent professionals admit is very very difficult to withdraw from.’

Like Sutton. Jim Docheny. treasurer ofthe Gallowgate Family Support Group. came by his views through personal experience. His two sons are both addicts who have been on methadone programmes. Their record doesn't tally with the new study.

‘My boys have been on methadone for years and have 90 prison sentences between thetn. twenty each while on methadone. Methadone can be a benefit. but they never got services to go along with it. We‘d try anything if it was working but it isn‘t working here.‘

His solution is radical: ‘I would just give them heroin. That will definitely hit the crime rates and get rid of the dealers right away.‘

He called for an open debate on the idea. It is not so outlandish. England has over 100 doctors licensed to prescribe heroin. but the concept has failed to gain acceptance in Scotland. where at the moment methadone is still seen as the best compromise treatment.

And Finally. . . Knaves of Hearts trump iee hockey’s clubs

considers what action if any to take against the club. Refereeing

history. but we are completely neutral.’ said McCann piously. adding

It‘s been a week of men behaving badly. Frequent visitors to this column Noel and Liam Gallagher set the tone when they nixed Oasis‘s tour of the US. In what appears to be a self- conscious attempt to ape The Beatles career trajectory. the band announced that they would stop playing live to concentrate on recording in the studio. Expect concept albums. The near-split cast Liam‘s fiancee Patsy Kensit in the divisive role of Yoko Ono. Don‘t hold your br ‘ath for bed-ins. however. Also behaving badly were Messrs Bruno. Pointon. Ritchie and Weir. the Hearts players swiftly dubbed the Ibrox Four after all were sent off in their team‘s game against Rangers. Allegations and counter-allegations are now filling the air. while the SPA

decisions have been called into question. while the role of Rangers‘ Gordon Durie prompted an allegation of cheating. It looks like the aftermath is going to be as unseemly as the original incidents which prompted the mass early bathing of the Hearts players.

For once. football out-did ice hockey. a game where sendings off to the ‘sin bin‘ are more or less pan of the evening‘s entertainment. In the first game of the season at Dumfries Ice Bowl. the Paisley Pirates were pillaged by the Border Vikings. who had a modest three players sent off in the process. However it was Pirates star John Kidd who was interviewed by the local constabulary after allegedly spitting blood at a spectator.

Yoko Ono: the Patsy Kensit ot the 60s?

At heavy metal concens fans pay good money for that kind of thing.

While the Pirates and the Vikings knocked lumps out of each other. Celtic chairman Fergus McCann has promised to clamp down on fans who bring sectarian rivalry to Parkhead. ‘Celtic may have a large number of Catholic supporters because of our

‘We are in the leisure business and are a social institution.‘ The Soldier’s Song is now banned; ‘Celtic. Celtic, Celtic ra. ra. ra‘ is presumably the approved method of urging on the Bhoys.

Which segues neatly into the last man behaving badly. and a Catholic to boot. The Father Ted award for sins ol the flesh goes to the Right Reverend Roderick Wright who. it seems. done wrong. After disappearing for several days. during which time the papers euphemistically ‘linked‘ him to a 40- year-old divorcee. Rev Wright emerged to say: ‘I am physically and spiritually unable to sustain the responsibilities of a bishop.‘ As Loaded magazine would say, good work fella. (Eddie Gibb)

The List 20 Sept-3 Oct 1996 5