Methadone prescribing for opioid dependence is a key element of the harm reduction approach to opioid use set out in the national drugs strategy. Methadone is one of the medications used in opioid substitution treatment, along with Suboxone.
As of 30 November 2018, more than 10,000 people were in receipt of methadone maintenance treatment.
The HSE provides opioid substitution treatment in a number of treatment settings to meet the needs of individual drug users, including primary care, treatment centres and residential facilities.
Since 2016, an additional 350 treatment episodes have been provided in tier 4 residential centres at a cost of €2.15 million. Within the past year, the HSE has established services in south Tipperary, Wexford and Limerick, and a service in the midlands which was due to open, opened in December.
A review of the methadone treatment protocol was published in December 2010. Arising from the review, the HSE implemented an opioid treatment protocol to provide appropriate and timely substance treatment and rehabilitation services tailored to individual needs.
In 2016, the HSE published clinical guidelines for opioid substitution treatment. The guidelines are the first that specifically relate to opioid substitution treatment in HSE clinics and primary care settings.
Opioid substitution treatment supports patients to recover from drug dependence. HSE addiction services work within the national drugs rehabilitation framework to support progression pathways.
The framework ensures that individuals affected by drug misuse are offered a range of integrated options tailored to meet their needs and to create rehabilitation pathways.
Methadone treatment reflects the public health approach to drug and alcohol misuse set out in the national drugs strategy. Moreover, it is an important tool to reduce harm and to aid people to recover from drug use. I am committed to improving the availability of this treatment and to developing services to meet the needs of people on opioid substitution treatment.