Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on National Drugs Strategy, Jack Chambers TD has said that the latest figures provided by the Health Research Board (HRB) highlight the urgent need to widen access to overdose antidote, Naloxone in Ireland.
According to the Health Research Board a total of 695 people who used drugs died in 2015 – almost two people died each day in Ireland as a result of overdose or complications associated with problem drug use.
Chambers commented, “The Government’s response to widening access to Naloxone, which is used to reverse the effects of opiates in cases of overdose to allow more time for emergency treatment, has been far too slow.
“Naloxone is currently only available by prescription to those who are in immediate risk of an overdose and to individuals specifically trained in administering the drug.
“Despite seemingly recognising the opiate epidemic in Ireland and the advantages to proactively responding to it, the HSE received just €750,000 additional funding from the Government to increase access to Naloxone this year.
“As these figures indicate, Benzodiazepines and other prescription drugs were implicated in over 90% of deaths. Since 2015, when these deaths occurred, Benzodiazepines have been controlled but I am conscious of new, emerging trends such as the use of Pregabalin (Lyrica) which is hugely concerning.
“The Health Service Executive continues to fail to effectively respond to the polydrug phenomenon.
He added, “There is often a misconception that Methadone is a suitable long term treatment for heroin addiction but it is important that we recognise that it in itself is a synthetic opioid. The less dangerous alternative has sadly over time become a means of controlling criminal behaviour in Ireland as opposed to the bridge away from addiction that it was once intended to be.
“It is of no real surprise that Methadone was implicated in 71% of drug related deaths in 2015, provided that the number of those on Methadone without a patient centred care plan continues to rise.
“In parallel to expanding access to the antidote, it is crucial that we remain focused on preventing opioid addiction and abuse which is growing at a frightening pace.
“Recovery and addiction support should not be left to the charity and voluntary sector any longer; the HSE must expand the number of detox beds and services for those suffering in addiction,” concluded Deputy Chambers.