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Methadone can cut crime levels and give life back to heroin addicts — Irish Medical Times

Methadone can cut crime levels and give life back to heroin addicts

October 22, 2010 By admin Leave a Comment

Dear Editor,

Can a consultant psychiatrist really be so naïve with regard to the scourge of heroin addiction and its management? I refer to Dr M Bhamjee and his recent letter to the Irish Medical Times (October 1, 2010, see imt.ie/opinion/2010/10/detox-is-still-the-best-option-for-addicts.html).

Heroin per se is not the whole problem. Rather, it is its illegality and the consequential associated lifestyle that goes with it that destroys lives.

Heroin requires ingestion/injection several times daily and a 24-hour commitment to access funds to feed the habit. This lifestyle incorporates criminality, risk of infection, disease and overdose, with little or no capacity to maintain a normal life, hold down a job, rear a family, et cetera.

Methadone, on the other hand, requires once-daily ingestion taken orally and, of course, is given free of charge. Crime is no longer necessary and the risk of infection/disease is eliminated. But the really crucial issue for the patient is that they are given their life back, once the lifestyle required to maintain a heroin addiction is no longer necessary.

To compare substituting methadone for heroin with exchanging two forms of alcohol is an insult to this newspapers reader’s intelligence. Dr Bhamjee makes much of the fact that patients on methadone maintenance may be taking methadone all their lives and indeed into old age. I know many patients well approaching the golden years who are prescribed slow-release opiate analgesia for chronic intractable pain. What is the difference? Perhaps it is, Dr Bhamjee, that the former heroin addicts reach old age ‘because’ of methadone treatment and not in spite of it.

In an ideal world, all patients would rush for detoxification, be offered a place and successfully detox. In practice, patients generally request, and are most suitable for, methadone maintenance. They do not request detoxification until they are mentally ready to do so, and it is this scenario that offers the best chance of success, whether as an inpatient or outpatient.

Whatever the circumstance, the detoxification failure rate is very high. You cannot force a patient to detox any more than you can force an alcoholic to give up drinking.

Get real, embrace methadone maintenance and do your community a favour.

Dr John O’Grady MICGP,

Addiction services,

Aisling Clinic,

Ballyfermot, Dublin.

via Methadone can cut crime levels and give life back to heroin addicts — Irish Medical Times.

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