How many more tragedies until we get to grips with methadone crisis?

How many more tragedies until we get to grips with methadone crisis?

22nd January 2013

At a time when the question of independence highlights the difference between the nations of the UK, there is one tragedy that unites those north and south of the border.

Last week two parents in Derbyshire were found guilty of manslaughter after their two-year-old son died from overdosing on methadone. The drug, which is supplied by the state both in Scotland and England, is prescribed as a replacement for heroin yet evidence of heroin was found in the home of the toddler. The drug is a liquid and had been left in the toddler’s beaker.  Presumably mistaking the liquid for juice, the toddler picked up the beaker and drank the contents. He died shortly afterwards from a massive overdose.

This tragic case is made all the more galling by the fact that it has happened before.  In 2006 in Breakdown Britain: Addicted Britain, the CSJ highlighted the case of another two-year-old in Scotland who died after ingesting methadone prescribed to one of his parents. There have been similar cases since. In Bristol, Jayden-Lee Greendied in 2007 from a methadone overdose administered by his parents, he was one month short of his second birthday.  While 16-month old Aiden Cormack-Reid from Edinburgh died after drinking the methadone of his mother’s boyfriend when on holiday in Spain.

Methadone can be a stepping stone to a drug-free life, yet for too many it is a permanent state. One in four are still on prescribed substitute medication after four years, while in the two years from 2010 to 2012 there was a 36% increase in deaths related to methadone.  With figures showing that 66,193 adults in treatment lived with a child, the state must take steps to ensure that methadone is taken for as short a time as possible, under proper supervision, and that parents receive proper rehabilitation to lead drug-free lives.  Only by being ambitious for recovery can we hope to help people break out from the prison of dependency and become capable of raising their children in clean and happy households.

Methadone is now linked to half of all drugs-related deaths in Scotland, more than any other substance including heroin. England must take heed not to follow in these tragic footsteps.

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