Wednesday, 19 November 2014
Department of Health
Drug Treatment Programmes Policy
118. To ask the Minister for Health the basis on which drug treatment services continue to be almost exclusively methadone maintenance based; the reason there is such little emphasis on recovery for those who are addicted to heroin or methadone; the basis for this policy and his proposals; if he will review this policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44425/14]
A core objective of the National Drugs Strategy is to provide an appropriate and timely range of treatment and rehabilitation services, including drug-free and harm reduction approaches, tailored to meet the needs of the individual.
Methadone maintenance treatment is a critical stabilising treatment that enables people to counter their problem drug use. 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.
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 comprises representations from the HSE and my Department, including medical professionals with specific interest in addiction. I understand that the HSE is currently in discussions with the supplier company in relation to the pricing structure relating to the product. The outcome of these discussions will inform the recommendations of the Group.