Pubdate: Fri, 11 May 2001
Source: Irish Times, The (Ireland)
Copyright: 2001 The Irish Times
Contact:  ++ 353 1 671 9407
Mail: Letters to Editor, The Irish Times, 11-15 D'Olier St, Dublin 2, Ireland
Contact:  (backlog)
Author: Eithne Donnellan
Bookmark: (Methadone)


Methadone, the substance used in the rehabilitation of heroin 
addicts, was found in the bodies of 45 drug-users who died in Dublin 
in 1999.

The chief executive of the Eastern Regional Health Authority (ERHA), 
Mr Donal O'Shea, said it was not possible to tell whether methadone, 
prescribed or otherwise, was the cause of death in any of these cases.

Mr O'Shea said the Dublin Coroner's inquest records for 1999 showed 
that methadone was present in 45 cases, but only in one case was it 
the only substance found. In half the cases three or more substances 
were identified.

"Apart from opiates the most prevalent substances detected were 
benzodiazepines and alcohol. Of the 45 cases where methadone was 
found it was being prescribed as per guidelines in 15 cases," he 

Dublin city councillor Ms Catherine Byrne, a member of the health 
authority, had asked for statistics on the number of deaths resulting 
from methadone treatment. She also asked if methadone was a suitable 
treatment for addicts in recovery.

Mr O'Shea said some addicts opted to stay on methadone while 
undergoing rehabilitation programmes while others opted for 

"The treatment of choice is a matter between the drug-taker, their 
doctor and other members of the care team. Two independent 
evaluations of the drug treatment services in the Eastern region have 
endorsed the approach being taken," he said.

There are about 5,000 drug abusers on methadone treatment programmes 
in the region.
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