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Methadone: Prisoners

Volume 497: debated on Wednesday 14 October 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make it his policy to suspend methadone prescriptions for prisoners in prisons where the drug rehabilitation programme is based on abstinence. (291958)

No. In line with the National Treatment Agency guidance, when matching treatment to individual need, both treatment (such as methadone prescription) and drug rehabilitation programmes might be appropriate depending on the needs of the individual at a given time and it would not be appropriate therefore to exclude one form of treatment at the expense of another.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what consultations took place on the introduction of methadone prescriptions for prisoners. (291959)

Since at least 1995 methadone has been recommended as one of a number of possible treatments for the management of drug dependence in prison.

The current clinical guidelines are “Clinical Management of Drug Dependence in the Adult Prison Setting” which was published in December 2006, a copy of which has been placed in the Library. The document aimed to address the current challenges facing the care and treatment of substance misusers in prisons including: the need to provide clinical interventions that harmonise with practice in community and other criminal justice settings, meet the individual’s need and address the vulnerability of drug-using prisoners to suicide and self-harm in prison, and to death upon release from custody due to accidental opiate overdose.

The document was developed in consultation with key Government Departments, professional organisations, commissioning organisations and service providers including:

HM Prison Service;

Department of Health;

Home Office;

National Treatment Agency;

National Addiction Centre;

National Offender Management Service Drug Strategy Unit;

Prison Officers Association;

Royal College of Psychiatrists; and

Royal College of General Practitioners.

The 2007 “Drug Misuse and Dependence: UK guidelines on clinical management” a copy of which has already been placed in the Library, contains specific information on the clinical management of drug dependence in prisons as a specific setting and is in line with the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines “Drug misuse: psychosocial interventions” (NICE clinical guideline 51) and “Drug misuse: opioid detoxification” (NICE clinical guideline 52).