NHS Tests New Anti-Drug Policy By Giving Addicts Money

By Shawn Dwyer 04/09/14

The controversial approach aims at using financial incentives to revolutionize drug treatment in the UK.

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A groundbreaking new trial study being conducted by the UK’s National Health Service seeks to radically alter how Britain approaches its drug treatment strategies.

The NHS has been giving £10 vouchers to opiate drug users, including heroin addicts, in exchange for a clean urine sample. The department’s move came after a separate study conducted by the National Addiction Centre at King’s College London found that a £30 pound incentive greatly encouraged intravenous drug users to receive vaccinations for hepatitis B (HBV).

Led by professor John Strang, that particular study found a “striking” rise in vaccinations that researchers hoped would change public policy on treatment for drug abuse.

“We understand that ill-at-ease feeling because it will be what we ourselves are feeling,” Strang said. “But the nature of medicine and its development is that you need to examine the evidence and improve methods of treatment.”

Roughly one in five intravenous drug users in the UK suffer from hepatitis B, with almost 25 percent dying from untreated liver disease. “There is a clear health benefit to the individual in terms of reducing the risk of infection,” said Dr. Tim Weaver, a research fellow at the Centre for Research on Drugs and Health Behaviour at Imperial College London. “There is also a public health benefit, reducing the risk of transmission to others.”

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Shawn Dwyer is a writer, editor and content producer living in Los Angeles. You can find him on Linkedin.