Drugs: Rehabilitation

Health written question – answered at on 30 March 2010.

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Photo of Claire Curtis-Thomas Claire Curtis-Thomas Labour, Crosby

To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to the answer of 18 March 2010, Official Report, columns 966-67W, on drugs: rehabilitation, how many deaths have been caused by methadone overdose in (a) Sefton and (b) the UK in each year since 2000; and what steps his Department is taking to reduce the incidence of methadone abuse.

Photo of Gillian Merron Gillian Merron Minister of State (Public Health), Department of Health

It is not possible to answer how many deaths are caused solely by methadone.

However, there were 10 deaths where the underlying cause was drug poisoning and methadone was mentioned on the death certificate in Sefton local authority between 2000 and 2007. Due to the small number these have not been broken down by year to protect confidentiality within birth and death statistics.

The following table provides the number of deaths where the underlying cause was drug poisoning, and methadone was mentioned on the death certificate, either alone or together with other substances in the United Kingdom for the years 2000 to 2007.

Figures on drug-related deaths identify all substances that were mentioned on the death record. Where more than one substance was mentioned, it is not possible to state which of them was primarily responsible for the death.

2000 324
2001 314
2002 298
2003 288
2004 300
2005 293
2006 340
2007 440

Methadone is misused if it is taken by someone for whom it has not been prescribed; this is often because methadone prescriptions have been diverted onto the illegal drugs market. The main way that this diversion of methadone is tackled is through the supervised consumption of methadone for people who are receiving it to treat their addiction.

Supervision of consumption by an appropriate professional provides the best guarantee that the methadone is being taken as directed. The Department's guidelines for drug treatment in the UK recommend that when a person starts receiving methadone to treat their drug misuse, they should take each dose under the supervision of a nurse, doctor or community pharmacist for a minimum of three months, and this supervision should be relaxed only when their compliance is assured.

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