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Roll-out of new measures to aid drug treatment due ‘within weeks’, Dáil hears

27 Feb 2017

The HSE will commence the phased roll-out of new drugs misuse measures, outlined in Budget 2017, when drafting of regulations and orders are completed in coming weeks, the Government has indicated.

Work on drafting the regulations had been complex and technical in nature, but was now at an advanced stage of preparation, according to Minister of State Catherine Byrne, and it was expected that various sections of the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Act 2016 could then be commenced.

An additional €3 million in funding has been allocated to the HSE this year for addiction services. The increased budget includes funding for the roll-out of Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone), a pilot supervised injection facility, more detox places and improved access to under-18 treatment services.

Suboxone is authorised as a substitution treatment for opioid drug dependence, within a framework of medical, social and psychological treatment and is currently being provided to a cohort of patients involved in a pilot and feasibility study.

If the provision of Suboxone is to be given the same statutory basis as methadone, in order to ensure its safe, appropriate and cost-effective use, an amendment to the Misuse of Drugs (Supervision of Prescription and Supply of Methadone) Regulations 1998 would be necessary, Minister Byrne said in response to Dáil questioning by Fianna Fáil Deputy Jack Chambers.

The Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Act 2015 was enacted as emergency legislation in March 2015 following a Court of Appeal decision on a constitutional challenge to section 2(2) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977. The 2015 Act reconfirmed the existing ministerial regulations and orders made under the 1977 Act, including the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 1988 and the 1998 Methadone Regulations. As a result, these regulations may only now be amended by primary legislation.

The Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Act 2016 was passed by the Oireachtas on the July 27, 2016. The primary purpose of the 2016 Act is to protect public health by bringing certain substances that are open to misuse and known to be traded on the illicit market under the scope of the Misuse of Drugs legislation.

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