By CLAIRE O'KEEFFE
Sunday August 09 2009
THE withdrawal of hundreds of pharmacists from their State contracts is hampering the recovery of more than 5,000 stabilised heroin addicts across the country.
The pharmacists involved in this dispute over fees say they will not supply heroin addicts with methadone to help them beat the craving for the drug.
And despite an HSE spokesman saying the termination of contracts has not affected the dispensing of methadone, a crowd of around 20 addicts were forced to wait for hours yesterday outside a methadone clinic on Amiens Street, Dublin, for their dose of the medication that suppresses narcotic withdrawal.
Taken orally once a day, methadone is effective in eliminating withdrawal symptoms for between 24 and 36 hours and reduces the cravings associated with heroin.
Consequently, the methadone patients do not experience the extreme highs and lows that they would experience with heroin addiction. Methadone treatment is one that continues over an extended period of time -- sometimes years.
Francis McDonnald, who is undergoing treatment at Amiens St clinic and hopes to be off methadone by Christmas, said: "Since the strike started, I have never seen so many people queueing for methadone in my life and I don't know if it's been handled very well.
"Now they've started giving out tickets like it's a raffle, so that people know what time they're going in for their methadone. And you know what's going to happen?
"People are going to start swapping tickets and fights are going to start and people are going to be hurt.
"They're health is going to suffer too.
"By one o'clock this afternoon people started getting sick because they never got their vial.
"They're all feeling rough now and its just a matter of time before they go out and score, and there'll be robbing and crime on the streets will rise again." Mr McDonnald added: "Between Rialto, the Boardwalk and here it's bleedin' crazy.
"More people are back on it. I know a girl and she was on methadone for three years, and now after three days she can't get her vial so she's gone off to score again.
"Someone will be hurt. Not just stabbed or beaten up or something, but badly hurt because they're so used to their methadone". A woman outside the clinic, who wished to remain nameless said: "There's going to be uproar because of this. There's going to be murder."
She continued: "When the doors of the clinic open, everyone is pushing and shoving and they'd do anything to get in first."
Another woman at the clinic, who also did not want named, added: "Our pharmacists are great. There are people who go into them just effin' and blindin', and you know, there's only so much they can take.
"I can understand why they're doing this but I don't understand why Mary Harney won't talk to them."
Mr McDonnald added: "It should be nipped before this gets fatal, because it will happen."
- CLAIRE O'KEEFFE