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Home > Illicit methadone use among young people.

Carew, Anne Marie (2008) Illicit methadone use among young people. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 28, Winter 2008 , p. 10.

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The latest issue of European Addiction Research contains a paper on illicit methadone use and abuse in young people accessing treatment for opiate dependence in Ireland.1

 At the time of publication, no research into methadone diversion had been conducted in Ireland. This study examines illicit use of methadone in a group of clients aged 25 and under attending a treatment programme for opiate dependence in the Drug Treatment Centre Board clinic in central Dublin in May 2005.
Data were obtained through a structured interview covering demographic information, family background, treatment history, current and prior drug use, current and prior reasons for illicit methadone use, details of methadone supply, and experiences of selling methadone.
Of the 81 people studied, the average age was 22 years, and 51% were female. The average age of first drug use was 13 years, and 70% of participants reported cannabis as the first illicit drug used.
More than half of the participants (51%) reported that other family members had also used heroin. Thirty-one per cent of participants were homeless or living in a hostel.

The average age of first use of heroin was 15; one participant reported never having used heroin. The majority (91%) reported smoking as the first route of administration of heroin, while the remaining 9% reported injecting as their first route of administration. Almost four-fifths (79%) reported having injected heroin at some point in their lives.
The average prescribed daily methadone dose reported by participants was 66mg. Almost one-third (31%) reported that this dose did not control the symptoms of heroin withdrawal. 
More than half of participants reported the use of illicit methadone both prior to and during treatment. Counteraction of opiate withdrawal symptoms was the most common reason given. During treatment, failure to attend the clinic was the most common reason for withdrawal symptoms.  Forty per cent obtained illicit methadone in order to do their own detox or maintenance. One-third reported using methadone for hedonic effects prior to commencing treatment. Participants reporting the misuse of benzodiazepines were more likely to report use of illicit methadone.
Despite strict controls, 73% of participants reported that illicit methadone was easy to obtain. The most commonly listed marketplace was outside the treatment clinic, while other locations included the participants’ local areas, the quays, and outside city centre train stations.
Of those buying methadone, 42% reported having a regular source. The majority of participants (82%) reported the supplier as someone on a methadone maintenance programme. The vast majority (93%) of participants who had received their methadone prescription as take-aways in the past reported being asked to sell it on; only 6% reported having done so.
1. Roche A, McCabe S and Smyth BP (2008) Illicit methadone use and abuse in young people accessing treatment for opiate dependence. European Addiction Research, 14(4): 219–225.
Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Issue Title
Issue 28, Winter 2008
Page Range
p. 10
Health Research Board
Issue 28, Winter 2008
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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