Will Cash Incentives Help Drug Addicts Stay Clean?

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

People across the pond are up in arms as health officials in Britain are slated to begin giving cash rewards to drug addicts as a means of helping them stay clean.

Thirty-three National Health Services (NHS) and voluntary clinics will begin giving £10 to any user of opiate drugs, including heroin, who provides a negative urine sample at a weekly meeting with their key worker.

Research on the results of this trial will be led by current and former advisors to the National Centre for Health and Care Excellence and conducted by public health experts at three London universities. The full results are expected to be published in the next two years, but lead researchers are already bracing themselves for backlash over rewarding addicts financially.

“We understand that ill-at-ease feeling because it will be what we ourselves are feeling,” said Professor John Strang of the National Addiction Centre at King’s College London. “But the nature of medicine and its development is that you need to examine the evidence and improve methods of treatment.”

The clinics found that 45-49 percent of participants completed their vaccination program within 28 days, compared to just nine percent of heroin users at clinics who were not offered cash incentives.Strang led a separate study involving 210 heroin users at 12 NHS clinics across the UK, which offered financial incentives of £5-15 for receiving hepatitis B vaccinations. The clinics found that 45-49 percent of participants completed their vaccination program within 28 days, compared to just nine percent of heroin users at clinics who were not offered cash incentives.

With approximately 250,000 injecting drug users across the UK, Strang believes the relatively small amount of money paid to addicts would be considerably more cost-effective than providing inpatient treatment. The high rates of success also make it a strong candidate for rollout at all NHS facilities.

“If your brother was going through a healthcare system and somebody had a tool that meant they had a 50 percent completion rate of vaccination, but out of squeamishness they went for [a tool with] a 9 percent [completion rate] and your brother was therefore infected, I’d feel aggrieved about that,” said Strang. He said further research would need to be conducted as to whether financial incentives were equally helpful in getting addicts to stop using drugs.

Would You Support a Cash Reward System in the US?
Side Note Picture That particular hope has been adopted by several US states which have required mandatory drug testing for food stamp recipients to continue receiving benefits. However, this method has drawn controversy due to its high cost and minimal success rate. Only two percent of welfare recipients in Florida tested positive for drugs in 2011, while Utah spent $30,000 last year on their program that caught just 12 drug users. Last December, US District Judge Mary Scriven struck down Florida’s mandatory welfare drug testing law by deeming it unconstitutional.

If you or someone you know is struggling with heroin addiction, consider looking at heroin addiction treatment options in your area.

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