Two-year waiting list for methadone


HEROIN ADDICTS are waiting two years on average to get methadone treatment in the southeast, the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee was told yesterday.

Senior HSE official Gretta Crowley, an acting assistant national director, said 545 people in the State were waiting to get on to the methadone programme. Some 106 of these addicts were in the Cork area.

Cork has seen a major upsurge in heroin use in recent months with the number of people seeking treatment for addiction increasing by more than 25 times in a 10-year period. She said addicts were waiting 10 months on average for methadone treatment in Cork city. The longest wait was in the southeast where 40 addicts were waiting for treatment.

Ms Crowley said a shortage of GPs participating in the methadone programme accounted for some of the delay and the HSE was encouraging more GPs to participate. The HSE will open a new clinic in the southeast before the end of this year. New clinics will also open in Cork city, Limerick city, the midlands and the northeast.

Addicts in the midlands must wait for three to six months for methadone treatment, while the waiting list in the west is about six months. Ms Crowley said waiting lists were not a major issue in the Dublin region.

Committee chairman Bernard Allen said addicts who need a bed in a residential detoxification unit have to wait from two weeks to four months for one of the 23 beds available in Dublin.

Labour deputy Róisín Shortall highlighted research which found that 69 per cent of patients receiving drug treatment were still in the programme three years later. The vast majority were on methadone maintenance. Ms Shortall also criticised the lack of information on the costs and benefits of various drug treatment programmes. “We still don’t know at this point what is the optimum way of treating drug abuse.”