GPs' objections to drug plan outlined


DOCTORS are reluctant to become involved in the Government's plan for distribution of methadone by general practitioners, a Dail committee has been told.

The president of the Irish Medical Organisation, Dr Henry Finnegan, outlined a series of objections by GPs to the suggestion that they should become one of the main conduits of the heroin substitute to drug addicts.

The Minister for Health, Mr Noonan, has said he hopes that 200 GPs will start to treat methadone patients, a move which would help to reduce the waiting lists at drug clinics.

But Dr Finnegan told a subcommittee of the Legislation and Security Committee that many GPs "are not convinced as yet that they should wholeheartedly support a methadone maintenance programme".

He said that some Dublin doctors were already involved in prescribing methadone. A few were frightened of dealing with some patients and felt obliged to prescribe it. Others were enthusiastic about the idea. Up to four GPs were "interested in this area for monetary reasons and have large numbers attending them".

GPs feared that their surgeries would be disrupted by drug addicts behaviour. They also felt security would be a problem. And they thought that if they became involved in prescribing methadone "they would be blamed publicly for the continuing drug problem".

In addition, they were concerned that drug addicts often followed methadone programmes for many years and even for their lifetime, without ever being weaned off drug dependency.

GPs were worried that they would simply be seen as suppliers of the drug, to addicts whose condition would not improve.