Bill Nelles

The general secretary of the Methadone Alliance responds to Mary Braid's article in which she examined the suitability of methadone as an addiction treatment
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The Independent Online

Your feature on methadone was not only heavily weighted with negative views about methadone treatment, but also perpetuated several medical and scientific inaccuracies about methadone itself.

Your feature on methadone was not only heavily weighted with negative views about methadone treatment, but also perpetuated several medical and scientific inaccuracies about methadone itself.

Instead of an interesting article containing contrasting responses of heroin users to methadone treatment, and critically debating serious arguments such as whether or not we ought to be replicating the heroin-prescribing clinics in Switzerland and Holland, we read about the views of four individuals associated with a controversial and criticised drug-free rehabilitation programme.

Your readers learnt nothing about the other side of methadone treatment; nothing about the thousands of lives that it has changed and saved in this country. These success stories are rarely heard about.

Methadone is one of the most researched medications in the world. Its long-term effects are well-documented, after some 40 years of research. There are hundreds of medical studies that attest to its ability to ameliorate the harm of active addiction to illicit heroin.

It doesn't pretend to be a "cure" for heroin addiction - although thousands have used it to help them to come off heroin. But it is sometimes provided in ways that do not optimise its potential to promote change - and we are actively working with health-care providers and government to help to remedy this.

On the specific charge that methadone patients still take other opiate drugs, studies show that between 10 per cent and 52 per cent of methadone patients surveyed sometimes use other opiates. That's not bad for someone struggling with a chronic condition such as opiate addiction, which is known to have a very high rate of relapse.

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