Opiate Maintenance Risks

Between 1997 and 2001 there were 590 deaths of patients attributed to methadone use.

(Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, November 2003)

DRUG ADVISORY COUNCIL COMMENTS-

Programs that INDEFINATELY maintain illicit drug users on opiates or opiate substitutes like methadone or buprenorphine do not work.

Maintaining illicit drug users in harmful practices that can lead to death, permanent ill health or shorten lives does not solve the underlying problems for the user.

Overseas experience has proven that the only way to reduce the number of illicit drug users is to get them drug free quickly and permanently.

Problems with opiate MAINTENANCE drugs include-

  • Hormonal suppression,
  • Stimulation of subfertility in males and Osteoporosis in females,
  • Suppression of the immune system causing poor wound healing, infections, poor skin quality and some skin cancers,
  • Devastating dental damage,
  • Cell death acceleration,
  • Stem cell inhibition causing premature ageing, and
  • Impeded tissue repair.

Harm minimisation policies are not working as the number of illicit drug users in Australia are increasing.

Rather than maintaining illicit drug users on opiate or opiate substitute maintenance programs, Australia must learn from successful overseas countries and divert illicit drug users into detoxification followed by comprehensive rehabilitation to a drug free state.