Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 584 - Drugs-related deaths [49708/14].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 584 - Drugs-related deaths [49708/14]. (21 Jan 2015)

584. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health if he will support a matter (details supplied) regarding methadone deaths here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49708/14]


Minister for Health (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The National Drug Related Deaths index is an epidemiological database administered by the Health Research Board which records cases of death by drug and/or alcohol poisoning and death among drug users and those who are alcohol dependent.


The Health Research Board published a report on the National Drug-Related Deaths Index on 15 December 2014 which shows deaths up to 2012, the latest year for which data is available. These figures indicate that there was a decrease in the number of deaths where methadone was implicated, with 86 such deaths reported in 2012 compared to 118 in 2011. The majority of these deaths (87%) involved poly-substance poisonings. There is clear evidence that having access to drug treatment is one of the main factors in reducing drug-related deaths.


Methadone maintenance treatment is a critical stabilising treatment that enables people to counter their problem drug use. The HSE provides methadone maintenance in a number of treatment settings to meet the needs of individual drug users. According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, methadone is the most commonly prescribed substitution treatment for problem opiate use in Europe. In conjunction with other services and supports such as counselling, after-care and training, methadone maintenance treatment provides a pathway to recovery for the individual affected by problem substance use.


The HSE Service Plan for 2015 includes an additional €2.1m for addiction services targeting vulnerable problem drug users. These measures include enhanced provision for residential detoxification and rehabilitation facilities and the mainstreaming of needle exchange facilities outside the Dublin area. This funding will also support a pilot demonstration project by the HSE, which is designed to increase access to naloxone for opioid users. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist which is used to reverse the effects of overdose of opioids such as heroin, morphine and methadone and has been proven to be an effective way of reducing the number of opioid overdose deaths.

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