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Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 206 - Drug treatment programmes policy [9721/15].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 206 - Drug treatment programmes policy [9721/15]. (05 Mar 2015)

External website: http://oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/debates%20a...


206. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding methadone use and children. [9721/15]

 

Minister for Health (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Methadone maintenance treatment is a critical stabilising treatment that enables the people involved to counter their drug problem use and to rebuild their lives. The latest figures from the Central Treatment List at the end of January 2015 indicate that over 9,900 clients were receiving methadone maintenance treatment, of which 14 people were in the age range 16 to 19.

 

In relation to the issue of hidden harm which concerns children living with and affected by substance misuse, the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol has commissioned a study to estimate the prevalence of children living with parental substance misuse. The results of this study are expected later this year.

The latest annual figures from the National Drug-Related Deaths indicate that 350 people died in 2012 due to the toxic effects of drugs, a decrease from 387 in 2011. There were 86 deaths involving methadone in 2012 as compared with 118 in 2011. In many of these deaths methadone was mixed with another drug.

 

Many drug-related deaths are avoidable, particularly those involving methadone or heroin overdoses. For this reason, I have authorised the HSE to undertake a demonstration study for the use of naloxone in the prevention of opioid overdose. Naloxone reverses the effects of drugs like heroin, morphone and methadone if someone overdoses. The study, which is now underway, aims to increase access to naloxone for non-medical staff, such as the families or friends of a drug user. The HSE budget for 2015 also includes an extra €2.1m to support this project and other measures targeting vulnerable drug users, including the provision of enhanced residential detoxification and rehabilitation facilities.

 

An Expert Group, set up by my Department in 2006, examined the regulatory framework required to facilitate the prescribing, dispensing and supply of buprenorphine/naloxone and buprenorphine-only products as alternatives to methadone. In 2011, this Group concluded that methadone is the drug of first choice in the treatment of opioid dependency, but that buprenorphine/naloxone may be more appropriate for particular cohorts of clients. The HSE has established an Opioid Substitution Implementation Group to develop a plan for facilitating the wider availability of buprenorphine/naloxone and buprenorphine-only products as alternatives to methadone. The Group is expected to report to me shortly.

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