Ireland Could Make Suboxone Available for Opiate Addicts

By Keri Blakinger 10/02/15

Irish addicts may finally get access to the medication they need.

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While Suboxone has been available in the United States since 2002, Emerald Isle addicts have still needed to rely on methadone.

But The Irish Times is reporting that a Department of Health expert group has recommended that Suboxone be made publicly available. Currently, the drug is being used in extremely limited pilot programs available at certain clinics across the island, but it is not commonly available.  

Even if it expands beyond pilot programs, though, its use would still likely be limited. The recommended target groups for Suboxone prescriptions only include young users with no history of methadone use, codeine users, and methadone patients who have shown stability.

As of now, there are more than 10,000 people receiving methadone treatment in Ireland. Dr. Ide Delargy, a member of the country’s public health services provider known as Health Service Executive, called that a “one-size-fits all” approach to addiction.

"I don’t think people would accept a situation in, say, heart disease that just one drug is available,” Delargy said.

Most other European countries have legalized Suboxone as a methadone alternative; Ireland is one of just four that hasn’t, even in the face of a growing opiate addiction problem.

In 2012, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction found that, along with Latvia, Luxembourg, and Malta, the country had the highest number of heroin users in Europe.

The following year, VICE both cataloged the spread of heroin use from Dublin into other parts of the country and critiqued the lack of treatment availability outside of the capital. Even back then, experts were speaking out about the lack of access to methadone alternatives.

Dr. Garrett McGovern told VICE, “Not everybody who has an opiate habit should be or wants to be on methadone and all it entails, and we forget about them. We don’t provide any services for them. You come up for treatment and we give you methadone. You might not want methadone, and you’re told that we can’t do anything for you."

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.