5 November 1998 Edition

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Methadone concern continues

By Tara O'Liaith

Emotions ran high in the Clan na Gael Fontenoy Hall on Tuesday as residents protested against the methadone service being established in their area. The Community Council of Ringsend/Irishtown in Dublin had called yet another emergency meeting and this time James Conway of the Eastern Health Board was present to answer questions from concerned residents. Also present were Ray Keane of the EHB and Dr Angus O'Cassidy.

The EHB argued that they could guarantee that it would be a `satellite service', set up only for addicts from the Ringsend/Irishtown district, but the residents didn't seem convinced. The community have been dealing with the EHB for the past two years in connection with the area's drug problem and feel they have been led a merry dance at this stage, from promises of a mobile unit to different numbers for the clinic given to different groups who have inquired.

As if to calm the residents fears, the EHB got into semantics, stating that `methadone clinic' was the wrong term to use, that it would be a service for addicts from the locality to treat them.

The EHB has a statutory obligation to set up a service and one way or another were going to do so in Ringsend. Once the community knew they couldn't stop it, they decided to at least monitor it.

At the meeting a monitoring committee was set up to work alongside the EHB, who gave the community a verbal guarantee that addicts will be screened once a month and only addicts from the area will be treated.

One local young man urged the residents to give the clinic a chance because from his own experience methadone is already being sold freely in the area, he believes that this way methadone will be taken out of the hands of dealers.

While the EHB is obliged to treat addiction from the medical point of view, addiction is more than a medical problem, to give an addict a substitute drug and expect him/her to control what they have no control over, seems absurd. Perhaps the most important point of the evening was made by a recovering addict who said ``These people (EHB) are professionals at what they do, but I was a professional at what I did''.

As Sinn Fein representative Daithi Doolan pointed out ``it needs to be understood that methadone has a limited role, but not as part of a longer maintainance or detox. Resources need to be put in place, education, retraining, to make it a successful process. A proper Garda response is needed to tackle dealers in the area and the response to addiction needs to incorporate the user, the family and the community''.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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