Fianna Fáil: Emphasis must be on becoming drug-free

One out of three heroin addicts on methadone treatment have been on the substitute drug for more than 10 years, figures released yesterday show.

Fianna Fáil said that while “seriously high levels” of funding is spent on methadone maintenance there is “little or no emphasis” on recovery and becoming drug-free.

Launching its Drugs Action Plan yesterday, Fianna Fáil said the drugs issue had slipped off the Government’s agenda — an accusation also made by community drug organisations.

Fianna Fáil called for the reinstatement of a dedicated junior minister for drugs, but declined to pledge a reversal in cuts to drug projects if it got back into power after the next election.

Official figures published in the plan show of the 9,678 heroin users on methadone treatment, as of June 2014, 3,325 (34%) were on the substitute drug for more than 10 years.

Some 1,326 have been taking the medicine for longer than 15 years — or one in seven of all those on methadone. Some 178 addicts have been on it for over 20 years.

Some drug treatment groups have previously raised concerns about the length of time some people are left on methadone — particularly in the context of an absence of recovery and rehabilitation services.

The Fianna Fáil plan said that seriously high levels of public funding had been dispersed by the HSE into methadone maintenance.

However, it said this had been done “with little or no emphasis on progression, recovery or movement to drug-free status for patients”.

It said those on treatment should be assessed every six months and that rehabilitation should include access to education and training facilities in their areas.

It also called for “comprehensive aftercare structures” given the high level of relapse and overdose and that there should be temporary accommodation for those in recovery, separate to those actively using drugs.

Justice spokesman Niall Collins said the treatment services were “too focused on treatment for heroin addicts” and needed to cater for poly-drug use, as well as alcohol and cannabis, including synthetic cannabis.

Mr Collins said he would not rule out supervised injecting centres but said people would have to be consulted beforehand. He said the party would develop a Drug-Related Intimidation Strategy in response to the growing problem.

The plan promised higher mandatory sentences for people exploiting young people through drugs.

It recommended the establishment of community-based community services — such as the North Dublin Community Care Service — for adolescents and families affected by drugs and alcohol.

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