Methadone Treatment Program – NSW
Pharmacotherapy (methadone, suboxone and buprenorphine) treatment is administered in public and private methadone clinics, doctors’ surgeries and chemists. The Kobi Clinic offers methadone, suboxone and buprenorphine treatment.
These programs are used to treat heroin-dependent people.
How is Pharmacotherapy Treatment used?
Pharmacotherapy treatment comes in the form of a syrup, tablet or strip of film and is used to treat heroin-dependent people. In Australia, pharmacotherapy programs are available in all states and territories, except the Northern Territory. In some situations, takeaway doses are also available.
Who can receive methadone maintenance treatment?
Generally, a person has to be over 18 years of age and can only go on a program after being assessed by a doctor who is an approved prescriber. Usually people pick up their daily dose at a clinic or pharmacy.
Why is pharmacotherapy a better alternative to heroin?
There are a number of reasons why pharmacotherapy treatment is preferable to being dependent on heroin.
First, pharmacotherapy treatment cuts out the risk of using shared or dirty injecting equipment and becoming infected with hepatitis B or C or HIV.
Second, pharmacotherapy treatment can be administered in a controlled way. This means that the drug is dispensed in a clinical environment so there is no risk of it being impure.
Third, the effects of pharmacotherapy treatment last up to 24 hours and this means a person only needs one dose a day to control withdrawal. These factors help stabilise a person’s lifestyle. It reduces the stress and anxiety over where the next dose of heroin is coming from and encourages people to look after themselves and others better. A person on pharmacotherapy treatment is also more likely to hold down a job.
Methadone maintenance treatment is a lot cheaper than heroin and the extra money can further improve the health and lifestyle of a person. Criminal activities to buy illegal drugs are also reduced.
Treatment Program costs:
A private methadone treatment program will charge a dispensing fee and (usually) an additional fee for providing take away doses in bottles. A public pharmacotherapy treatment clinic does not charge a fee but places are very limited and there are often long waiting lists for these spots.
What are the effects of pharmacotherapy treatment?
The effects of pharmacotherapy treatment are similar to heroin. They can include relief from pain, feeling of wellbeing, nausea, and vomiting.
- The pupils of the eyes become smaller.
- Body temperature drops.
- Blood pressure and pulse slow down.
- Pharmacotherapy treatment may also affect a person’s ability to drive a car or operate heavy machinery.
Long term effects
People who attend a pharmacotherapy treatment clinic and use methadone, suboxone or buprenorphine treatment for a long time may experience increased sweating and constipation. Both men and women may experience sexual problems and a woman’s menstrual cycle may be disrupted.
Most of these effects will disappear with dose adjustments and as the person’s lifestyle improves.
Stopping abruptly can lead to withdrawal symptoms. Usually they begin one to three days after the last dose. They can include:
- stomach cramps
- runny nose
- sleeping difficulties
- joint pain.
These symptoms reach their peak on the sixth day but some may last for a few weeks.
Can you overdose on pharmacotherapy medications?
Overdose can happen when more than the prescribed dose is taken, when methadone is injected or when taken with other drugs, such as alcohol or minor tranquillisers.
Pharmacotherapy and the law
In NSW, methadone, buprenorphine and suboxone are classified as prohibited drugs. Penalties for the possession, trade, or manufacture of pharmacotherapy treatments range from $5,000 and/or 2 years in prison to a $500,000 fine and/or life imprisonment.
Only doctors authorised by the Director-General of Health can lawfully prescribe pharmacotherapy treatment. Unauthorised prescription also carries heavy penalties.
Further information and help
Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) is a 24 hour confidential telephone counselling service. Phone: (02) 9361 8000 or toll free: 1800 422 599.