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The World Today: Incentives for drug addicts; HEALTH: Vouchers will help "encourage" better lifestyles.

Byline: By Jane Kirby

DRUG addicts will be given shopping vouchers under a scheme announced today which will cost up to pounds 5 million a year.

The plans will see around 36,000 drug addicts in England given between pounds 70 and pounds 150 a year for accessing treatment and health programmes and staying clean.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), which announced the move, said it was cost-effective in the long run.

It insisted addicts would be given vouchers, not cash, and ruled out incentives such as prize draws and offering iPods.

Steve Pilling, co-director of the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, who worked on the guideline, said the vouchers were worth a "couple of pounds" each.

He added: "We are not talking about iPods or flat screen TVs."

The guidance, which will be sent to all health workers involved in substance misuse, such as GPs, is aimed at tackling problems in the over-16s.

The cost of implementing the guidelines in England are pounds 13.4 million plus another pounds 2.5 million to pounds 5 million a year for the voucher and incentives scheme.

Drug addicts will be offered vouchers for complying with treatment programmes or testing negative for using illegal drugs.

The vouchers are designed to "encourage a healthy, drug-free lifestyle" and "should increase in value every time the person continues to have a negative test", the guideline said.

A range of privileges will include addicts being able to take home the heroin substitute, methadone, instead of having to take it under supervision.
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jul 25, 2007
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