The NHS has broken controversial new ground by embarking on a test programme offering financial incentives to combat heroin addiction. If the programme shows any measure of success, it could motivate the government to change the way it deals with both drug addiction and drug abuse prevention. If it fails, it could mean a lot of money spent for nothing.
According to news reports, as many as 33 NHS drug clinics are giving away £10 shopping vouchers to opiate addicts who can produce a clean urine sample during a weekly visit with a key worker. No details were released to explain how the programme would work in relation to detecting possible fraud. The NHS has also not explained what it would view as a successful trial.
The experimental programme is based on a similar programme that has already succeeded in convincing drug users to get hepatitis vaccinations. That programme also offered cash incentives to individuals willing to get one, two, or three HBV shots over the course of 28 days. The study was conducted by using graduated cash incentives that would pay drug users more with each successive HBV shot.
Amazingly, the trial showed that those receiving financial compensation were five times more likely to be vaccinated than those who went uncompensated. Now the NHS wants to know if the same incentive can be used to encourage opiate users to stop using. However, the differences in the two behaviours could spell doom for this second test.
Nature of Addiction
We do sincerely hope that the programme succeeds in encouraging opiate users to quit. However, we have our doubts due to the nature of addiction. It is one thing to encourage people to be inoculated against hepatitis when that inoculation in no way affects a drug habit; it is something entirely different to use the same sort of incentive to break the addiction cycle.
Remember that we are not talking about getting three quick shots that are over and done with. We are talking about withdrawing from a highly addictive drug that has completely overtaken the body and mind of the addict. If getting addicts to stop were as simple as giving them cash, we could have solved the addiction problem decades ago. Yet that has not happened.
If this cash incentive programme is to offer any tangible benefits at all, it must be accompanied by treatment methods that actually get at the heart of addiction. It must also be accompanied by a willingness to stop using methadone and other substitute drugs as a way of treating drug addicts long-term.
These days we are too quick to offer methadone for heroin users as a way of making their addiction safer. Unfortunately, we do so under the guise of helping such individuals ‘recover’ from heroin addiction. Nevertheless, any user who continues long-term methadone use has not really recovered at all. He or she has merely substituted one drug for another.
Time to Get Help
Perhaps you are someone suffering from a drug or alcohol addiction. Perhaps you have tried to recover by way of NHS services and failed. Perhaps you have not tried any recovery at all. Regardless of your current circumstances, we urge you to make the choice to get help today. You can break free from the control of addictive substances with the right kinds of treatments. However, you need to want to recover if you are going to succeed.
Please get in touch with us or another organisation that can help you get on the road to recovery. Your future, and possibly your life, may very well depend on it.
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