Pubdate: Mon, 30 Mar 1998
Source: Scotsman (UK)
Contact:  Frank Urquhart

TOUGH CONTROLS ON METHADONE IN GRAMPIAN

Tough new controls on the potential abuse of the heroin substitute,
methadone, are to be introduced by Grampian Health Board to fight the
growing toll of drug-related deaths in the north-east of Scotland.

The controls will force registered addicts to attend designated pharmacies
where they will be given daily doses of the legally prescribed opiate
substitute under strict supervision.

It is claimed the scheme will lead to a drop in drug-related crime and the
illegal use of hard drugs throughout the area.

Two years ago, two-thirds of the 32 drug related deaths in the Grampian
Police force area were blamed on the leakage of legally prescribed doses of
methadone on to the drugs black market.

Last year, methadone was blamed for a further six of the 28 drug-related
deaths in the Aberdeen area.

Some addicts were known to be walking out of pharmacists' shops with two
weeks' supplies of the synthetic opiate which they were selling in street
deals, making methadone the "drug of choice" in many parts of the
north-east.

Faced with the spiralling death-toill, Grampian Health Board set up a
special working party last year to examine the scale of the problem and to
identify ways of controlling methadone abuse.

The new measures announced yesterday will come into force on 1 April and
follow Glasgow's lead in making it mandatory for all registered addicts to
be given their daily doses of methadone under stringent supervision in
community pharmacies.

The board is also planning, for the first time, to restrict the number of
pharmacists who can dispense the heroin substitute.

GPs and pharmacists who sign up for the new protocol are to be given
specialised and ongoing training in the operation of the scheme.

Dr Gordon Paterson, the board's director of public health and the chairman
of the working party, said he had been encouraged by the positive response
from both GPs and community pharmacists to the board's new controls.

"It is clear that there is not only recognition of the problem of heroin
misuse but also the contribution which they can make to reducing harm by
working together as clinical partners," he explained.

The board's initiative was welcomed by Detective Chief Inspector Magnus
Mowatt, the drugs liaison officer with Grampian Police.

He told The Scotsman: "It is a welcome development which will help to
tighten up the manner in which methadone is reaching the addict and thus
automatically, we would hope, reduce the amount which is reaching the
street illegally.

"And anything which is done to reduce the amount of methadone leaking on to
the streets is obviously going to lessen the chances of people dying from
overdoses."

Janice Jess, of Grampian Addiction Problem Service, said: "Anything that
tightens up and prevents further leakage of methadone into the community
has to be welcomed."