Potentially interesting developments...
A report found at Europe Against Drugs (EURAD), dated December 2, 2010, entitled Stable Methadone Deaths, points out that the number of people dying from methadone use in Scotland remained stable in 2009, comparable to 2008 levels, though overall, the level has risen 10% in the past three years.
What in the world does this mean? you politely ask. Or, better yet, Who cares?
Methadone is a drug used to treat addiction to heroin and similar opiates, though it brings with it its own risks; as explained:
Although the heroin substitute methadone is known to effectively reduce heroin-related deaths among heroin addicts and may facilitate better recovery during rehabilitation, use of methadone itself has raised concerns due to its potential for abuse, dependency, and overdose when misused by vulnerable patients.
Supervision reduces deaths
Because trends in heroin abuse and methadone prescribing among the UK population have continued to rise in recent years, Professor John Strang at the National Addiction Centre, Institute of Psychiatry in King’s College London and colleagues assessed the relationships between methadone-related deaths and the use of supervised methadone prescribing among the Scottish and English populations during 1993 to 2008.
Did you catch that? Trends in heroin abuse, and in the prescription of methadone to treat heroin abuse, "have continued to rise in recent years".
The article links to another entitled Scotland's Methadone Deaths, which explains another aspect of this problem (I edited the format slightly; the link is in the original):
The General Register Office for Scotland states that 574 drug related deaths were reported in 2008. More than twice as many as in 1998 with 249 casualties, making the total increase a whopping 119 percent in the past ten years.
The number of drug-related deaths has risen in eight of the past ten years: the long-term trend appears to be steadily upwards. 62 percent of the registered deaths in 2008 are directly linked to drug abuse. Heroin and morphine accounts for 59% of the drug deaths. The number of methadone related deaths has risen by nearly 10 percent in 2 years. Methadone was involved in 23 percent of the deaths in 2006. In 2008 the number had risen to 32 percent.
The disturbing increase in drug deaths linked to Methadone caused a reaction from the former head of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, Graeme Pearson, who warned as early as in 2006 that the Scottish use of methadone was out of proportion:
− "To have more than 20,000 people daily accessing methadone, it is ridiculous. We need to find a way of reducing those numbers," Mr.Pearson said while demanding more effort towards a drug free existence rather than solely harm reduction (BBC).
Controversial use of Methadone
Neil McKeganey, professor of drug misuse research at the University of Glasgow, agreed with Mr. Pearson and claimed there were now parts of Scotland where there were more addict deaths associated with methadone than heroin.
− "I think that it would be regarded by many people as a rather shocking state of affairs in which an addict may be continuing to use heroin but receiving highly addictive medication on top of that, placing him or herself at a real risk of overdose. Clearly if you've got somebody receiving that medication approaching 20 years then it hasn't been a stepping stone to their recovery. Much of the methadone programme in Scotland is not about getting people off, it's about continuing them in a state of dependency," Professor McKeganey continued.
Did you catch that? The methadone program is about continuing the addicts in a state of dependency. (See also Drug experts defend methadone use, from April 5, 2010.)
Let's look at another piece of information. From Drug-related deaths in Scotland in 2009:
3.3.10 Because some of the figures can fluctuate markedly from year to year, the main changes over time are best identified by comparing the averages for 1996-2000 and 2003-2007 (the latter being the final 5-year period before the break in the series). These show that there were marked increases in the numbers of deaths for which there were reports of:
•heroin and/or morphine - from an average of 128 per year in 1996-2000 to an average of 229 in 2003-2007
To be sure, most drug-related deaths actually involve more than one drug, at least in Scotland, but the upward trend is interesting, isn't it?
Before the UK became embroiled in the War on Terror and the fighting in Afghanistan, average deaths from heroin/morphine were 128 per year, and afterwards, they jumped to 229 per year.
Afghanistan is cornering the world's market on heroin production, and the UK, which is at one end of a key opiate-smuggling route that starts in Aghanistan, has seen indications of opiate use increase since Afghanistan's heroin production facilities came under the, uh, "scrutiny" of US and UK forces in Afghanistan.
And, in Scotland at least, the program to "treat" dependency actually is more effective at maintaining dependency.
So, somebody won't stop heroin production at its source in Afghanistan, and somebody seems intent to continue a program that ensures a supply of addicts in Scotland.