The Minister of State indicated there were 10,300 people in receipt of methadone treatment, approximately 6,000 of whom have been on treatment for more than five years, 4,000 for more than ten years and 1,400 for more than 20 years, so some people have been on treatment for an extended period. The pathways to progression are not always very clear. I have met many people who have been on methadone treatment and they indicated it is harder to detox from methadone than from heroin. People are concerned that when they get on methadone treatment, it is not the answer but only part of it. I fully accept and acknowledge the role methadone treatment has in terms of removing somebody from heroin and illicit drugs, removing the criminality element and bringing them into treatment services. However, I have a concern that a significant number of people have been left in treatment for a long time.
The Minister of State made reference to international studies and long-term studies on the positive effects of being on methadone for a prolonged time. Those studies are 20 years old. If we are considering new and alternative treatments, are those studies as valid today as they once were? For individuals who are on methadone treatment, particularly for an extended period, how frequently are their care plans and pathways reviewed with a view to progression?