Belfast Telegraph

Methadone call over rural addicts

Methadone programmes have to expand to meet the needs of recovering heroin addicts in rural areas, a report has said.

More than 9,000 drug users are taking opiate replacement treatment, mainly methadone, to try and beat their addiction and lead a functioning life.

But academics revealed the range and scale of problems outside the capital makes the development of services in those areas an urgent priority.

The most recent figures estimate the number of heroin addicts outside Dublin more than doubled between 2001 to 2006 - from 2,225 to 5,886 - with almost another 15,000 users in the capital itself.

In a report Michael Farrell, professor of addiction psychiatry at Kings College London, highlighted the overall gap in the national provision of services and recommended major attention be given to developing models of services for all areas outside of Dublin. He also called for the issue of rural access to services to be specifically addressed.

"The report calls on a further integration of services to ensure that the broader social needs of service-users are fully addressed," Professor Farrell said.

There were 8,551 patients receiving methadone treatment from a GP or clinic by the end of December 2009, a jump from 5,965 in 2002. But the figure does not include prison inmates.

The review found people not in treatment were approximately three times more likely to die than those who are in stable treatment.

The first external review of the methadone treatment protocol, which came in to law for medics in 1998, was co-authored by Professor Farrell and and Joe Barry, professor of population health medicine at Trinity College Dublin.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) said the findings will be a template for maximising treatment resulting in detoxification, stabilisation and rehabilitation for opiate users, encouraging heroin users to engage with treatment services.

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