Monday, August 06, 2012

Truth Column July 26

My July 26 Truth column is now on-line.

Every day across New Zealand thousands of heroin addicts are given legitimate doses of a heroin substitute – methadone – by their local pharmacist.

While the programme purports to wean people off with reducing doses, more often it’s a maintenance scheme which keeps the addict  stabilised, functioning and free from crime. 

This is a prime example of harm minimisation in practice. It represents an acceptance that people either want or need to use recreational drugs and making criminals out of certain users only creates additional harm.

Contrast this approach with the recent news that police have arrested over 2500 people in cannabis operations over the past six months. 


Other Truth columns here


Anonymous said...

The truth is people are actively discouraged from coming off Methadone.This is a disgrace.Apparently resources are too scarce to support these people wanting to leave the scourge of Methadone.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

So, there aren't the resources to really get clean. While others complain it's almost impossible to get ON the programme when deciding to quit their current lifestyle. The programme itself seems to be a halfway house which has been referred to as a chemical prison.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

...and I should add, by people on methadone.

Anonymous said...

Keeps these people stabilised, functioning and free from crime.
Not in my experience of dishing methadone out for over twenty years. Why is it that alcoholics are treated by abstinence, but these people are given drugs on the tax payers bill. It's all bullshit. Murray

Lindsay Mitchell said...

Murray, Some are. Experience varies across pharmacies. But I agree there is most definitely an element of bullshit residing between rationale and reality.

Richard McGrath said...

I work as a medical officer at two methadone clinics, and gently suggest whenever possible that our patients consider reducing off methadone, which would free them up for travel and work by removing the 'liquid handcuffs' that methadone impose on those prescribed it.

Many people do take up this suggestion, and while not always easy, if they are motivated usually they can reduce the dose, though this is not a priority. The main thrust is to get people away from purchasing illegal (and therefore high-priced) drugs

The huge benefits from placement on methadone programmes (less criminal activity, less injecting, less use of illicit drugs, more employment) make these programmes cost-effective.

Richard McGrath said...

Murray, I agree people on methadone programmes are not angels, but the treatment does reduce their criminal activity and high risk behaviour to a greater or lesser degree. I forgot to mention earlier that it has been proven that methadone treatment reduces the spread of blood borne viruses such as HIV and hepatitis C. You can't turn opioid addicts into upright citizens in a day, but you can reduce the harm they inflict on the wider community.