MSP unrepentant over methadone contraception plan

A Labour MSP has today defended his suggestions that contraceptives should be put in methadone to stop drug abusers having children.

Duncan McNeil said the advice and support given to families of drug abusers was “simply not enough”, insisting that more focus must be placed on the rights of the children.

He made the suggestion during yesterday’s Scottish parliament debate on the harm that drugs can cause families, which focused in particular on the case of two-year-old Derek Doran, who died in his East Lothian home after drinking his mother’s methadone.

Official figures suggest between 40,000 and 60,000 children in Scotland are affected by parental drug use, and yesterday justice minister Cathy Jamieson outlined how the Scottish Executive was going to take action.

The plans include improving contraception and family planning services for substance misusers, but Mr McNeil, MSP for Greenock and Inverclyde, suggested a more radical move.

“Why are we in a situation where so many of those who are addicted to drugs are having children?,” he said.

“We are talking about people with long-term addictions.as a first step we need to explore putting an oral contraceptive in methadone. In that way, we could reduce the problem and prevent some children from coming to harm.

“That would be good not just for the families involved but for taxpayers, who spend a lot of money on the problem.”

The suggestion was rejected across the board, however, with Scottish National party (SNP) MSP Fiona Hyslop insisting the proposals were “extreme, wrong and unworkable”.

Jeremy Purvis for the Liberal Democrats said the suggestion was “bizarre” and “almost certainly illegal” – the way forward was to support people with drug misuse problems, “not to have a state programme of contraception”.

Green justice spokesman Patrick Harvie said it was an “imbecilic notion”, saying: “This foolish shoot-from-the-hip approach risks doing more harm than good, undermining trust both in sexual health services and in the methadone programme”.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Drugs Forum also rejected the plans outright, saying: “The real issue here is that too many women drug users are not getting access or receiving proper contraceptive advice and treatment.”

However, speaking on Today this morning, Mr McNeil was unrepentant, saying: “Advice and support that has been given is simply not enough. It’s very dangerous and a bad idea I would’ve thought when you’re taking drugs and methadone to start a family.”