€1.4m spent on methadone programme in Cork

€1.4m spent on methadone programme in Cork

THE cost of operating the methadone programme for heroin users in Cork has cost almost €1.4 million since 2017. Niall Carson/PA Wire

THE cost of operating the methadone programme for heroin users in Cork has cost almost €1.4 million since 2017.

Figures provided to The Echo, through the Freedom of Information Act, by Cork Kerry Community Healthcare shows that just under €195,000 has been spent on the programme so far this year.

Costs include GPs, counselling staff, administration staff, and drug testing kits.

Methadone was introduced in Ireland in 1971 as a standardised treatment of those dependent on opiates and synthetic opiates.

The drug, which is used now to stabilise heroin addicts is a green or blue liquid which can only be prescribed by GPs in the methadone treatment programme scheme. 

The aim of its use is to help reduce the cravings for heroin, which typically lead to a very chaotic lifestyle for addicts.

At the end of last year, there were 10,300 people on methadone across the country.

The figure included approximately 6,000 who have been on treatment for more than five years, 4,000 for more than ten years and 1,400 for more than 20 years.

Among those on methadone programmes in Cork are some prisoners in Cork prison.

Last November, the then Justice Minister, Charlie Flanagan, outlined that 41 inmates out of 299 who were in the prison on October 31 were on methadone. This accounted for 13.7% of the prison population.

According to the Irish Prison Service, "Any person entering prison giving a history of opiate use and testing positive for opioids is offered a medically assisted symptomatic detoxification, if clinically indicated. Patients can discuss other treatment options with healthcare staff. These may include stabilisation on methadone maintenance for persons who wish to continue on maintenance while in prison and when they return to the community on release. Prisoners who, on committal to prison, are engaged in a methadone substitution programme in the community will, in the main, have their methadone substitution treatment continued while in prison."

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