Up to now, the Republic of Ireland has shunned the idea of making Suboxone available to opiate addicts. Ireland prefers to dish out methadone in its so-called ‘harm reduction’ programmes.
The rationale for ‘harm reduction’ is that it is safer for opiate addicts to take prescribed methadone than it is to smoke or inject street heroin.
In the United States and most other EU countries, opiate addicts have enjoyed prescribed Suboxone for many years. Suboxone is given to opiate addicts in these countries in the same fashion that methadone is prescribed in Ireland.
Now Ireland’s Department of Health has set up an ‘expert group’ that has officially recommended harm reduction programmes using Suboxone. A pilot programme has been rolled out at a small number of Irish clinics.
The Irish Government is expected to extend the programme across Ireland soon. However, Suboxone will only be offered to ‘young’ opiate addicts with no prior history of methadone use. Codeine users will also be excluded from the roll-out.
Recent Irish statistics reveal over 10,000 of its citizens are currently registered for a methadone harm reduction programme.
Dr Ide Delargy, a prominent Irish health advisor said: “Methadone is a one-size-fits-all solution to opiate addiction. I don’t think people would accept a situation in, say, heart disease that just one drug is available.”
A 2012 report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction revealed that Ireland has the highest number of heroin addicts in the whole of Europe. This report strengthens calls to make Suboxone legal via prescription.