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Nearly 30,000 UK Inmates on Methadone Maintenance Last Year

By Victoria Kim 01/16/15

A controversial treatment program has started to raise some eyebrows.

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Almost 30,000 UK inmates received tax-payer funded opioid maintenance in prison last year, according to figures requested by MP Andrew Griffiths.

Between 2013 and 2014, 29,717 drug-addicted inmates in Britain received the heroin substitute methadone or buprenorphine, also known as Suboxone, to wean their dependence from heroin. Methadone and buprenorphine are used to treat addiction to opioids such as heroin or oxycodone.

Opioid maintenance for treating addiction is controversial, but according to British national clinical guidance, prisoners on sentences of less than six months should receive the heroin substitute as a way to begin drug treatment. But inmates who are in prison for less than three months and do not have time to complete the drug treatment program are still provided methadone or buprenorphine.

According to the conservative Griffiths, the best way to rehabilitate offenders is to provide a “drug free environment” in prisons. He said the government is “spending too much on methadone dependency and not enough on programs to get people abstinent and drug free.”

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