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Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 192, 193, 195 & 197 - Drug treatment programmes policy [26475/15, 26476/15, 26478/15, 26480/15]

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 192, 193, 195 & 197 - Drug treatment programmes policy [26475/15, 26476/15, 26478/15, 26480/15]. (01 Jul 2015)

External website: http://oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/Debates%20A...


192. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health his views that the methadone maintenance programme is successful in treating the estimated 20,000 heroin addicts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26475/15]

 

193. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the initiatives that have been developed and undertaken by his Department to bring the estimated 10,000 heroin addicts outside of treatment into treatment programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26476/15]

 

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin): I propose to take Questions Nos. 192 and 193 together.

 

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction reports that methadone is the most commonly prescribed substitution treatment for problem opiate use in Europe. In conjunction with other services and supports, methadone maintenance treatment is a critical stabilising treatment that provides a pathway to recovery for the individual affected by problem substance use.

 

The latest figures from the HSE indicate that over 9,890 clients were receiving methadone maintenance treatment at the end of April 2015. The National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol is currently undertaking a survey which will provide an up-to-date estimate of the current number of heroin users, as the most recent national estimate dates back to 2006. The results of the survey are expected later this year.

 

Harm reduction interventions, which include methadone maintenance treatment and needle exchange services, are an important component of the response to problem substance use as such interventions encourage problem substance users to engage with, and avail of, drug treatment services. The expansion of needle exchange outside Dublin with the support of funding from the Elton John Aids Foundation, has resulted in the recruitment and training of over 130 community pharmacies. During 2014, over 42,000 packs containing over 240,000 needles were given out.

 

Additional funding of €2.1 million was provided in the HSE budget for 2015 for a series of measures targeting vulnerable problem drug users, including an additional 53 beds in residential treatment and rehabilitation facilities creating 439 treatments. This year, the Government has also stepped up the efforts to reduce drug-related deaths and near-fatal drug poisonings. The HSE Naloxone pilot project which is currently underway involves 600 patients receiving take-home Naloxone and the provision of training to lay persons, such as the family and friends of a drug user, in the administration of a Naloxone injection to overdose victims. Naloxone is an antidote used to reverse the effects of opioid drugs like heroin, morphine and methadone in overdoses.

 

Those struggling with drug problems may have multiple needs, such as poverty, housing, poor health and education, which require multiple interventions involving a range of different agencies. The National Drugs Rehabilitation Framework, which is currently being rolled out across the country, aims to ensure continuity of care for recovering drug users by promoting a client-centred approach to rehabilitation, based on shared care planning.

 

195. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the medicinal based alternatives available to heroin addicts seeking treatment, but who do not wish to avail of methadone and-or for which it is contra-indicated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26478/15]

 

197. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the reason for the delay in the implementation of the recommendations of the buprenorphine implementation group; the reason they have not yet been implemented, notwithstanding that they were completed and published several years ago; if he is satisfied with this level of delay; the barriers that exist to their full implementation; the steps he has taken to address these barriers; if he is prepared to fast-track their implementation in the interests of patients; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26480/15]

 

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin): I propose to take Questions Nos. 195 and 197 together.

 

Government policy in relation to drugs emphasises the need to provide opportunities for people to move on from illicit drug use to a drug-free life where that is achievable. However, every person with a drug problem has their own individual needs and their own personal goals for recovery.

 

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 established an Opioid Substitution Implementation Group in June 2013 to develop a plan for facilitating the wider availability of buprenorphine/naloxone and buprenorphine-only products as alternatives to methadone. The Group submitted a draft report to the Director General of the HSE on 4 June 2015. The Group is expected to report to the Minister of Health shortly.

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