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Drugs: Rehabilitation

Volume 501: debated on Thursday 26 November 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many residential drug rehabilitation places there are in England; and what proportion of such places was in use on the most recent date for which figures are available. (301745)

The National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse maintains a voluntary national online directory of organisations that provide residential drug and/or alcohol rehabilitation services. There are currently over 120 residential services listed with 2,565 beds in England. Most of the beds are available for drug or alcohol rehabilitation and therefore cannot be disaggregated. Some services have chosen not to appear in the directory so the total number of places will be greater than this.

Data on bed vacancies are collected as part of the related, and optional, BEDVACS service. The latest occupancy figure for the 116 services currently using BEDVACS was 83.5 per cent. on 17 November 2009.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what his most recent estimate is of the average annual cost of an opiate substitute prescription for a problem drug user; (301900)

(2) what his most recent estimate is of the average number of months during which a problem drug user takes a prescribed opiate substitute.

Drug treatment in England consists of various types of treatment, depending on the circumstances of the service user, including opiate substitute prescribing. A service user may therefore receive many different treatments over time which makes it difficult to isolate the cost of a single component such as substitute prescribing.

The National Drug Treatment Monitoring System operated by the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA) records the type of treatment interventions each person receives, e.g. ‘specialist prescribing’ (from a specialist drug service) and ‘GP prescribing’ (from their general practitioner). It does not record the medication prescribed.

The annual cost of a person in a prescribing intervention is estimated at between £2,000 and £5,000, depending on the medication prescribed, the intensity of their treatment and ancillary support.

Data on the length of time that an opiate substitute is prescribed are not collected centrally, however research shows that staying in treatment for at least 12 weeks has a lasting positive benefit in reducing the harm associated with dependence.

It is important to note that the duration of drug treatment varies markedly according to individual need and that it is not unusual for drug users to go in and out of treatment several times, often over several years, before becoming drug-free. Additionally, national clinical guidelines do not specify how long a person should be in treatment.

Prescribing an opiate substitute has benefits for both the patient and society. It allows the patient an opportunity to stabilise their drug intake and lifestyle while breaking with the cyclic nature of illicit drug use and dependency, allowing them to take responsibility for their children, earn their own living and to keep a stable home.