A breakthrough in drug and alcohol treatment for the UK could become a reality; as the UK is set to follow Portugal’s example of compulsory rehab treatment for criminals suffering from addiction.

Whilst illicit drugs will not be decriminalised, it seems the government is finally seeing sense by implementing measures to reduce the number of drug-related deaths and drug-related crime offences.

If successful the compulsory treatment pilot could be rolled out across the UK. This would undoubtedly relieve pressure on prisons and also actually help to rehabilitate repeat and prolific offenders who have alcohol, drug or mental health problems.

Drug addicted offenders view prison as a break from addiction

The UK’s justice secretary, David Gauke, has been pushing for a more effective addiction treatment rehabilitation solution for alcoholics and addicts who commit a crime – amidst Britain’s overcrowded prison crisis.

Prisons in the UK are well known for having a revolving door system for repeat and prolific offenders suffering from alcohol/drug addiction and mental health illness.

Many of these individuals, due to the nature of their illness, are constantly in and out of the prison system serving numerous short sentences, with no opportunity for effective and lasting addiction rehabilitation.

PCP rehabs spoke with an ex-prison drug treatment manager for HMP Bedford, who wished to remain anonymous, she said: “Working in the prison system with those suffering from alcohol and drug addiction is very demoralising, especially with those serving short sentences.”

“My office was on the drug treatment wing where every individual prisoner was undergoing some kind of drug detox, most commonly heroin or benzodiazepines.”

“Not a day would pass without some kind of major self-harming incident or suicide attempt. These prisoners clearly need a level of professional help that the prisons are ill-equipped to deliver, especially within the given time frame of a short sentence.”

She further poignantly stated: “Many drug-addicted prisoners would commit a crime to get a break away from their miserable existence in the community. Prison to them meant a bed for the night, structure, food and a medical detox or maintenance plan.”

“In my two years working there, I would see many leave and return within weeks. It really was very sad; some don’t make it back and instantly overdose on release due to reduced drug tolerance levels” she said.

She concluded by stating: “The pilot if successfully managed, could change all of this. Personally, I feel it could be the treatment breakthrough we have been waiting for addicted prolific offenders in the UK.”

Tackling overcrowded prisons and high self-harming rates

The pilot, which is aimed at treating the root causes of alcohol/drug addiction and dual diagnosis prisoners will be initially trialled within five UK prisons. Individuals who repeatedly return to prison for short sentences will be placed into compulsory addiction treatment, instead of returning to prison.

David Guake, the justice secretary, hopes that the compulsory treatment pilot will reduce self-harming, violence, drug abuse and overcrowding in Britain’s secure settings.

Whilst announcing the treatment programme pilot in Northampton, he stated: “We are all clear that we need to do more to support vulnerable offenders in the community.”

“I want to improve confidence in community sentences, and early evidence from these sites has shown that treatment requirements can have a significant impact in improving rehabilitation and addressing the underlying causes of offending.

“We need to do more to raise awareness and increase confidence in treatment requirements and I look forward to exploring how these sites progress.”

Plans drawn up with the NHS, Public Health England and Department of Health are being piloted in five areas before the government hopes to roll them out nationwide.

Heroin and crack cocaine addiction – Causing most substance abuse related crime

2016 to 2017 recorded a staggering 29,626 adult prisoners with an alcohol or substance misuse problem. Of the 29,626 incarcerated offenders, a shocking 18,692 required treatment for a dual opiate and crack cocaine problem; 10,934 required treatment for an opiate misuse problem and 7,663 required treatment for an alcohol-only problem.

It is evident from the 2016 -2017 secure setting statistics, recorded by the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS), that crack cocaine and opiates are the main drugs that lead to criminal offences.

Why investing in treatment services benefits everyone

Public Health England - why invest in treatment?

The government and NHS will save millions from investing in treatment for drug addicted prisoners.

Many substance misuse offenders are repeat offenders who regularly commit a crime in order to fund their addiction. These individuals tend to serve shorter sentences but have the highest reoffending rate.

The expense and stress on the NHS will also benefit from this pilot as will the lives of many addicted to alcohol and drugs that commit crimes.

The pilot, if rolled out throughout all of the UK’s prisons, really could have a huge positive impact on all of the services involved in treating those with addiction and dual diagnosis illnesses.

Furthermore, many that are deemed to be hopeless cases, who have never been provided with the tangible opportunity to change, will now have that chance to change their lives around completely and become upstanding and productive members of the community.

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