£3.6bn cost of treating drug users
Treating problem drug users and keeping them on benefits costs £3.6 billion a year, a report has said.
Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke plans to change the way authorities tackle drug addiction, diverting more people with drug problems away from prison and into treatment as part of a "rehabilitation revolution".
But the Government's plans for payment-by-results schemes are "doomed to failure, not least because they are being run by the very organisations responsible for the current failure of policy", the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) report said.
The focus on rewarding providers who show addicts have improved their health and employment prospects, who have not offended and who are not in treatment for drugs, was "seriously misguided", it said.
"Solving the drug problem means recognising the problem for what it is: one of addiction.
"The solution lies in freeing people from it, not by measuring proxy outcomes (which are easy to manipulate)."
The report went on: "There is one simple measure of success: that of six months abstinence from drugs."
Kathy Gyngell, chairwoman of the prisons and addictions policy forum at the CPS and the report's author, said prescribing methadone to drug addicts delays their recovery from addiction and has been "extremely expensive".
The annual cost of maintaining treatment and paying benefits to the 320,000 problem drug users is £3.6 billion, the report estimated.
This includes £1.7 billion in benefits, £1.2 billion for looking after the children of drug addicts and £730 million for prescribing methadone.