I was frustrated by some of the poor practices I saw in the UK treatment system when I lived there. One practice which I found very frustrating was the fact that many (almost certainly most) people with a heroin problem were only given the option of methadone treatment.
Another frustration related to the attacks that one experienced for speaking out against the bad practice of not offering people a choice. One would be accused of being against harm reduction. The majority of people who spoke out, like Huseyin Djemil or myself, were not attacking harm reduction or the use of methadone per se. We just wanted people to be given other options.
I first met Huseyin at a recovery group meeting run by Kathy Gyngell at the Centre for Policy Studies. I was very impressed by what Huseyin had to say and by his demeanour and professionalism. At the time, he was London Area Drug Strategy Coordinator for HM Prison Services. I had no idea at first that he was a former heroin addict. It was no surprise that Huseyin went on to run a very successful consultancy, Green Apple Consulting Ltd.
Here is a story that Huseyin told me during our second interview. It is about the use of methadone in prisons… and about clinical detoxes.
David asks how Huseyin feels about some people in the field saying, ‘Recovery kills.’ Huseyin tells a relevant story about the prison service.
After joining the service, Huseyin was in charge of seven London prisons. The detoxes for prisoners were done very badly when he began his job. After control was moved to Primary Care Trusts, the detoxes were done very much better clinically. However, the government brought in an Integrated Drug Treatment System (IDYTS) which involved creating an equivalence of care between the prison service and community.
Methadone maintenance became more the norm, rather than clinical detoxes. After Huseyin left the prison service, prisoners who had detoxed after being addicted to opiates were encouraged to go on methadone before being released into the community. They were told: ‘You could die out there’.