Archive for 19/07/2010

Strict limits on how long drug addicts are allowed to stay on heroin substitute methadone have been proposed by the government body responsible for treatment strategy, in what will be seen as a watershed in UK drugs policy.

The National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA) is describing the move as a rebalancing of the system in favour of doing more to get addicts clean.

But cynics will regard the shift by the NTA, which has faced criticism and calls for it to be scrapped, as a late attempt to save itself before the coalition review of arm’s-length government bodies.

Martin Barnes, the chief executive of the DrugScope charity, which represents 700 local drugs agencies, said: „A goal of avoiding open-ended prescribing through improved practice is not the same as, and should not be confused with, the setting of time limits.“

An estimated 330,000 people in England and Wales are addicted to heroin, crack cocaine or both. More than 200,000 are in contact with treatment agencies, but most are „maintained“ on methadone or other synthetic opiates, at a cost of £300m a year, rather than pushed towards abstaining from all drugs, whether prescribed or illegal. Strict time limits on methadone treatment would require a big expansion of residential care for addicts.

In a report last week the influential Centre for Social Justice, set up by former Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith, called for the NTA to be scrapped and replaced by an „addiction recovery board“ covering drugs and alcohol misuse. The report repeated claims that only 4% of drug addicts are emerging clean from treatment.

The NTA, which is responsible for England, disputes this figure, saying that the number of people „successfully completing treatment free of dependency“ rose to 25,000 in 2008-09, about 12% of those who were in „effective“ treatment.

However, the agency has accepted that it needs to revise its approach in view of the change of government. In draft changes to its business plan, approved by the NTA board but not yet signed off by ministers, it states: „We intend to take forward the government’s ambition for a rapid transformation of the treatment system to promote sustained recovery and get more people off illegal drugs for good.“

The aim, the draft says, is to rebalance the system and „ensure successful completion and rehabilitation is an achievable aspiration for the majority in treatment“.

The idea of time limits is drawn from new Department of Health clinical guidance for opiate prescription in prisons. The guidance requires that offenders serving sentences of six months or more should have any prescription reviewed at least every three months. The prison guidance states: „If there is some exceptional reason why abstinence cannot be considered, then the reason must be clearly documented on the clinical record at each three-month review.“

In the draft revision of its business plan, the NTA says: „No one should be ‚parked‘ indefinitely on methadone or similar opiate substitutes without the opportunity to get off drugs. New clinical guidance has introduced strict time limits to end the practice of open-ended substitute prescribing in prisons. This principle will be extended into community settings.

„New clinical protocols will focus practitioners and clients on abstinence as the desired outcome of treatment, and time limits in prescribing will prevent unplanned drift into long-term maintenance.“

The NTA declined to comment on its proposals. But word of its policy shift is prompting excited debate in the £1.2bn drugs treatment sector. The methadone issue became totemic for critics of the Labour government’s social and criminal justice policies, and was raised repeatedly by David Cameron during the general election campaign.

Karen Biggs, the chief executive of Phoenix Futures, a leading treatment provider, welcomed the move towards a „better balance“ in the treatment system. „There are excellent examples across the country of recovery-orientated treatment systems that help people move from the most chronic addictions to a life of recovery,“ Biggs said. „A balanced treatment system which is ambitious for the individuals and communities with which it works will contribute to the wider social policy objectives of the coalition government.“

Kokang rebels produce drugs in Asia World Company dam sitesIn a new revelation Kokang rebels sheltered in China’s southwest Yunnan province are allegedly into illegal amphetamine production in the dam construction sites of Burma-Asia World Company in Kachin State, in northern Burma. This was revealed by sources close to the rebels.left align image

The amphetamines, also called Yama tablets are being produced in the dam construction sites jointly operated by ASW and the Chinese state-owned China Power Investment Corporation (CPI) in Kachin State, since last year, added the sources.

Currently, the Chipwi dam in N’Mai Hka River and Myitsone dam in Irrawaddy River, or Mali Hka River are being constructed by the two companies, where the illegal drugs are produced. The sites are provided security by Burmese security forces, the sources added.

There are several hundred labourers in the two dam sites and all workers are Chinese except those into road construction and the day labourers.

In early July, about 300 Kokang troops led by Peng Daxun, eldest son of absconding Kokang leader Peng Jia-sheng sneaked into areas controlled by former New Democratic Army-Kachin (NDA-K) in eastern Kachin state, bordering Yunnan province, from the Chinese border town Nansan, opposite Kokang territories in Northeast Shan State.

Peng Daxun’s troops were given shelter in the Chinese border city Nansan along with their arms by Chinese authorities in the wake of the fall of Laogai, the capital of the Kokang rebels, or the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) to the Burmese Army in August, last year.

The rebel capital was seized by Burmese troops on the allegation that they were producing illegal drugs and weapons.

Peng Daxun’s troops have been secretly producing amphetamines in the dam construction sites before they entered Kachin State from Nansan, said sources.right align image

Recently, Peng Daxun’s men were said to have explored the illegal drug market on the Burma-Bangladesh border, said sources close to him.

The illegal drug production done in utmost secrecy has the cooperation of the AWC owned by Burmese drug lord Lo Hsing Han and Peng Daxun’s Kokang troops.

Lo Hsing Han and Kokang leader Peng Jia-sheng are close relatives and the sons of the two — U Tun Myint Naing, a.k.a Steven Law, son of Lo Hsing Han and Peng Daxun son of Peng Jia-sheng are also close and have businesses links, said sources close to them.

Peng Daxun has business investments in companies in Singapore through U Tun Myint Naing, who is married to a Singaporean.


A very good read:ChasingthdragonOriginsandHistory

Asthma and Heroin, a maybe lethal combination?

Read more: HeroinInsufflationandasthma