Nov 15 2012 by Julie Gilbert, Hamilton Advertiser
Drug paraphernelia worth thousands of pounds is being handed out every year to drug users in Lanarkshire.
Last year £156,804 was spent on items including needles, swabs and ‘utensils for preparation’ such as spoons, bowls and dishes.
Conservative MSP Margaret Mitchell says the hand-outs are costing too much, and are in fact encouraging addicts to continue using.
Needle exchanges were set up across the UK more than 20 years ago, in a bid to stop the spread of diseases through dirty needles.
But since 2003, the amount of drug paraphernelia made available on the NHS has greatly increased.
Now swabs and citric acid – used to dissolve solid drugs – are all available to drug users on the NHS.
Ms Mitchell says instead of handing out these items alongside replacement drugs such as methodone, the Scottish Government should be looking at abstinence programmes.
Ms Mitchell said: “We all want to have fewer drug addicts and the government has a duty to help those addicted to drugs but freely distributing methadone and drug paraphernalia is not the answer.
“Scottish Conservative’s want more abstinence-based programmes to be explored to help get people free from the curse of drug addiction as parking people on methadone doesn’t work and neither does supplying the necessary equipment in order to take drugs. The numbers involved here are huge.”
However, the Scottish Government says their methods save the NHS money in the long run.
A spokesman said: “It is too simplistic to look at this problem in isolation. Increasing the quantity, quality and nature of injecting equipment provided is critical because it helps stop the transmission of diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV which would cost the NHS far more in the long run from treating and managing these infections.
“This is a preventative spend which significantly reduces the cost to the NHS and the taxpayer. We do not favour one form of treatment over any other. Decisions on appropriate treatment for individuals are for clinicians, in discussion with their patients.”