LIES, DAMN LIES AND STATISTICS:
TREATING PEOPLE AS PAWNS
Everyone involved in the treatment of addiction must know what works and what does not so that they can follow the best course of action for themselves, their patients, families, community and society. We all deserve to be given the truth. Deirdre Boyd seeks it in the latest NTA figures.
It is a deadly game which costs the country both lives and scarce resources: using statistics to hide what fails so it cannot be corrected, and hide what succeeds so it cannot be replicated. We all deserve to be given the truth in the game of life. So let’s clarify drug-treatment statistics for 2010-11.
DRUG DEATHS. The NTA states that drug deaths in England fell to 1,625, from 1,731 two years ago and 1,697 in 2001. To put this in context, substance-misuse deaths climbed under the NTA to record highs of 1,800 in 2008 and 1,731 in 2009 – compared with 1,510 in 2000-01, immediately before the NTA started. Also, the NTA omits drug deaths in Wales: they rose from 78 deaths in 2000-01 to 152 in 2010.
We also hear anecdotes (anonymous, for fear of reprisals) of efforts not to record methadone-related deaths, which rise year on year. And Dr Chris Ford has written in a freesheet of recording, with good intentions, at least one methadone-related death as “pneumonia”- how typical is this?
Read and evaluate for yourself the breakdowns from the Office for National Statistics.
NTA ANNUAL REPORT: “27,969 FREE FROM DEPENDENCY” CLAIM is featured large on the cover of the NTA Annual Report. And its spokespeople publicly defined “free of dependency” as being free of all drugs with no cross-addiction. It is a pity that they did not tell the data gatherers…
…“free from dependency” is NOT an outcome in the National Treatment Data Monitoring System (either dataset G or the most recent dataset H).
“Leaving treatment drug free” is a NDTMS outcome – but (a) it is defined as quitting only illicit drugs, so patients could be dependent on methadone/alcohol/benzodiazepines and (b) there is no test or independent audit, merely a request that “the client is judged by the clinician” who might have a vested interest (see NDTMS link, page 40 of Business definitions).
Again to gain context, the NTA’s 2009 Annual Report claimed that “24,656 completed treatment free of their drug of dependency” – that is free of only one drug; we analysed the figure from all drugs as a third of that, at most. We cannot directly compare, as the NTA changed its reporting terminology after our analysis, but all you need do is enter “Dodgy dossier 1” in the web-search boxin the left column of this page for a guide on how the figures can be interpreted.
In addition, we hear that detoxes increased in 2010, to build “treatment completed” numbers.
“DECLINE IN PEOPLE NEEDING TREATMENT” – who interpreted a decline in numbers presenting or accepted for treatment as a decline in need? One reason for not presenting, as Dr David Best reported, is addicts unwilling to be parked on methadone instead of being helped to quit drugs. Conversely, what about all those waiting for rehab?!
NEW CLIENTS? Read more questions at the Straight Statistics website.