Methadone is often used as a substitute for heroin in drug-treatment programmes, the idea being that it stops users from stealing to pay for their drug habit and stops them from overdosing, using contamintated heroin and storing dirty needles. Defenders of methadone say that it cuts crime and reduces the danger to addicts while opponents say that drug users are just 'parked' on methadone without moving on to rehabilitation programmes. Researchers from Edinburgh University studied 800 heroin users, of whom 571 were still alive when the research was followed up. The study found that methadone treatment reduced the frequency of drug use and led to a drop in the risk of death by 13% each year. The drug did not prolong the number of years users continued to inject heroin but those who took it led less chaotic lives and lived for longer. Overall the researchers concluded that "suggestions that methadone prescribing should be cut back or confined to the short-term are clearly misplaced and would lead to poorer health for drug injectors."
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