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Although Scotland's drug related deaths dropped by 5 percent in 2009, the percentage of methadone related deaths have not decreased.
Heroin and morphine were implicated in 322 deaths in Scotland, while the heroin substitute methadone may have contributed to 173 deaths.This means that the disturbing increase in methadone related deaths in 2008 has remained stable in 2009.The number of methadone related deaths has risen by nearly 10 percent in the past 3 years, making methadone the fastest rising cause of drug related deaths in Scotland.
Read more here: Scotlands Methodone Deaths
Read the full publication here: Drug-related Deaths in Scotland in 2009
Second highest recorded
The decrease of 5% is pleasing, but no cause for optimism. This is still the second-highest figures ever recorded in Scotland - and experts warn the long-term trend is for a steady rise.
Community safety minister Fergus Ewing said:
- Fewer people lost to drug use is always good news, but we must acknowledge that these figures remain high.It is clear we continue to face a challenge to help steer people away from problem drug use and towards recovery.
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.
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.
In their study, the researchers gathered information regarding those deaths in Scotland and England in which methadone was the sole drug involved or was used in combination with other substances. The researchers polled their results based on the number of methadone-related deaths per million daily doses of methadone per year, composing what they call an annual OD4-methadone index.
According to their research, the practice of methadone prescribing dramatically changed during the 1990s as the introduction of daily supervision of methadone doses within the early stages of treatment became standard among treatment facilities. Because of this increased supervision, the researchers noticed that methadone-related deaths had dropped four times the rate from previous years in both Scotland and England, indicating that the newer method of methadone administration was not only effective but safer to use in recovery treatment.
These reductions in methadone-related deaths were closely associated with the introduction of supervised methadone dosing within both countries, and occurred during a time period in which methadone prescribing had increased 18-fold in Scotland and sevenfold in England.
Read the complete study in the British Medical Journal.
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