Apparent Success of Drug Treatment Aimed at Heroin is Misleading

Irish research shows addicts on methadone programme still abusing crack cocaine and other substances. The Irish Government drugs policy needs to change
There has been an apparent levelling off of the need for opiate centred drug treatment. However the researchers believe their findings show that this is misleading. Their evidence suggests that multiple drug use is the norm among many addicts.

Realities of Drug Misuse Investigated

The study was led by Dr A. Jamie Saris (Principal Investigator) and Fiona O’Reilly (Primary Field Researcher), Dept of Anthropology at NUI Maynooth and is the result of a long-term study which closely examined the realities of drug misuse in three adjacent neighbourhoods.
Of 92 abusers surveyed, 98% were on a methadone drugs treatment programme yet almost two thirds claimed to have used heroin within the past 3 months. Whilst over half were on prescription tranquilisers almost as many had used illegally obtained tranquilisers. Nearly one third had used crack cocaine and more than one in five powder cocaine. “Multiple drug use is the reality for nearly all users, and official policy needs to have this understanding at its centre”, claims Dr Saris.

Stigma Against Heroin Among the Young

A surprising finding was that there is a stigma against heroin among many of the younger users (aged 16 to 25). But these individuals still abuse what the study team describe as a “dizzying array” of other substances. The established approach to treatment, being so heavily focused on heroin, means that the issues faced by such people are not being addressed.
Another problem with the focus on crack and heroin is that it sets the users of those drugs apart from society when, in fact, such people are rarely defined solely by their addiction. A lot of local community activities aimed at assisting users recognise that they often lead lives that are not so very different from everyone else.
Drug Treatment Services Should Focus on Individuals
However it is often difficult to justify such activities to official funders under the rubric of ‘treatment’, as currently understood. Dr Saris believes that it is important to understand who users are, what they are taking and why, so that the authorities can assign the appropriate resources, treatments or management systems.
Tony MacCarrthaigh chairs the Local Drugs Task Force that covers the area of the study and he agrees with Dr Saris. “Individuals and not chemicals, need to become the focal point of treatment, and that treatment needs to assist individuals in developing another orientation not just to drugs, but to life,” he said. (A Dizzying Array of Substances; An Ethnographic Study of Drug Use in the Canal Communities, Department of Anthropology, NUI Maynooth, 2010.)

Source: Apparent Success of Drug Treatment Aimed at Heroin is Misleading

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