Concerns over methadone use.

Minister of State for Community Affairs John Curran has expressed “grave concern” that people addicted to drugs “seem to be on methadone for an extended period of time”.
He said “not everybody who uses methadone uses it exclusively” and it appeared to be taken with a combination of other drugs. “I may not be in my position long enough, but I would like to see the hard evidence to show progression” and an “active methadone-reduction programme”.
The Minister was answering questions about Health Research Board figures which revealed 2,442 drug-related deaths in the eight-year period from 1998-2005.
Labour spokesman Jack Wall expressed concern that 60 deaths in 2005 involved the use of methadone. If drug addicts were getting access to methadone from more than one source “instead of curing themselves, addicts are creating more problems for themselves” with addiction to methadone. Mr Curran said the HSE “is in the process of implementing a national overdose-prevention strategy which would address the issue of benzodiazepines, prescription drugs and methadone”.
Referring to the figures for 2005, the Minister said of the 400 drug-related deaths “cocaine was implicated in 100 deaths”, while 25 per cent of deaths from poisoning were “the result of alcohol in conjunction with another drug”.
He said while illegal drugs were involved in many cases, “prescribed drugs and over-the-counter medication, such as anti-anxiety drugs like valium, antidepressants and pain-killers, are frequently involved in such deaths, either alone or in conjunction with illegal drugs”.
Catherine Byrne (FG, Dublin South Central) expressed concern about service cutbacks in drugs task force areas. “I will not criticise the Minister, whose heart is in the right place,” she said.
However, she warned that crime was greatly linked to drugs, and the Government had to “take the drugs issue seriously if we are to get anything done”. She said the local Inchicore drugs team had to reduce its budget by €30,000, and other services in Wexford and Tipperary had being asked to reduce their budgets by 14 per cent.
Mr Curran said while the funding in 2008 was €34.776 million, it was €34.6 million for 2009, a slight reduction. However, spending had increased significantly over the years.
Source, Marie O’Halloran, The Irish Times,05/03/2009

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