Home > Dáil Éireann debate. Written answer 391 - Health services [Methadone] [18853/23].

[Oireachtas] Dáil Éireann debate. Written answer 391 - Health services [Methadone] [18853/23]. (20 Apr 2023)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/question/2023...

391. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the extent to which he remains focused on enabling rehabilitation and methadone treatments for those who have been adversely affected by drugs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18853/23] 

Hildegarde Naughton, Minister of State at the Department of Health: The national drug strategy, Reducing Harm Supporting Recovery, provides an integrated public health approach to drug and alcohol use, focused on reducing the harms for individuals, families and communities and promoting rehabilitation and recovery. 

Opioid substitution treatment (OST) supports patients to recover from drug dependence. Methadone prescribing for opioid dependence remains a key element of the harm reduction approach to opioid use set out in the strategy, along with suboxone. Action 14 in the strategy seeks to increase access to and improve the availability of OST in community settings and homeless services. 

HSE addiction services work within the national drugs rehabilitation framework to support progression pathways. The framework ensures that individuals affected by drug misuse are offered a range of integrated options tailored to meet their needs and to create rehabilitation pathways. 

Over the last 3 years and in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the HSE introduced a number of innovative changes to the delivery of care for this cohort to enable them safely access treatment and significantly reduce waiting times. 

These innovations included:

  • Clinical Guidelines on the rapid induction of clients to treatment were developed and modified in response to the ongoing pandemic
  • Amendments to the Misuse of Drugs regulations
  • Availability of OST was widened extensively and additional homeless settings were able to engage people on OST to ensure appropriate care.
  • In recognition of the difficulties some individuals may have in accessing care, virtual clinics for prescribing GPs were established.
  • A particular emphasis was placed on the provision of buprenorphine/naloxone (suboxone) as a medication to be used in OST. This has resulted in a significant increase in the number of people receiving this medication and an increase in GPs prescribing the medication 

As a result of these innovations and changes, the HSE Addiction services and community level 1 and level 2 GPs are now providing OST to almost 1000 more individuals than at the end of January 2020 as can be seen in the table below.


Jan 2020

October 2022










The number of GPs prescribing buprenorphine-based products has increased from 37 at the end of January 2020 to 61 now. This is in line with action 14. 

Additional funding of €4.2 million was provided in 2021 for the continued treatment of an additional 1,000 clients on opioid substitution treatment (OST), who were given access to OST in 2020 and 2021 under the Covid-19 contingency plan for people who use drugs. 

I am committed to improving the availability of this treatment and to developing services to meet the needs of people on opioid substitution treatment.

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