29th March 2015
Road to Recovery?
It is often said that information is the key. This is particularly the case when holding governments to account for their policies.
The problem with Government is that sometimes good quality data, statistics and analysis are hard to come by.
The methadone programme is a case in point. When the Government launched its programme as part of its alternative drug strategy announced in 2009, it stated that the central goal of treatment must be to enable people to become drug-free.
However, six years on, and we are none the wiser as to how many people on the programme have come off drugs. We also have little detail as to how long users have been taking the heroin substitute, and what progress they are making towards recovery.
This is despite news last week that in 2013 seventeen million pounds had been spent on prescribing methadone to people suffering from drug misuse, with six hundred thousand spent in Inverclyde alone.
The absence of any clear evidence on outcomes has led Dr Neil McKeganey, from the Centre for Drug Misuse Research, to claim that the programme is literally a black hole into which people are disappearing.
His comments come a year and a half after a major review into opioid replacement therapies raised concerns that basic information seemed impossible to access.
It’s simply not good enough for governments to announce a major policy shift or funding and hope that this in itself will solve the problem. They need to follow through with proper analysis and data collection to ensure we have a full picture of the outcomes of any policies they introduce.
We also need a cultural shift at the heart of government which leads to a climate where tough questions are asked and which will allow for proper scrutiny and accountability.