Sat, Sep 02, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Tainan begins methadone trial

COST EFFECTIVE Methadone is taken once a day with a cost of NT$70, a low expense in comparison with heroin. Sustaining a heroin habit can cost up to NT$10,000 a day

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Tainan District Prosecutors' Office yesterday launched an experimental methadone program to help heroin users kick their habit.

In a first for the nation, the prosecutors' office signed the "methadone substitution program" with the Jianan Mental Hospital and the Department of Health.

Methadone is designed to suppress narcotic withdrawal, reducing dependence on certain lethal drugs such as heroin. When administered by trained physicians, it also lowers the risk of contracting diseases through injections.

Chronic heroin addicts may need to use methadone for much of their lives to deal with their addiction.

Chu Chao-liang (朱朝亮), the head of the prosecutors' office, told the media yesterday that under the program, heroin addicts who turn themselves in to the office will be granted deferred prosecution and can begin methadone treatment immediately. Once started, the treatment is compulsory.

Heroin users are obliged to contribute NT$50,000 (US$1,521) to a special fund to help finance the cost of the treatment, added Chu.

He said heroin addicts who do not turn themselves in and are caught by law enforcement will have to pay NT$100,000 to the treatment fund.

Chu said methadone is taken once a day with a cost of NT$70, a low expense in comparison with heroin. Heroin users with a chronic habit can spend up to NT$10,000 a day.

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Chu said the NT$70 cost would be reduced to NT$20 next year as the nation starts to produce its own methadone.

Methadone will evenutally be offered in only four hospitals across the nation, including Jianan.

The methadone treatment program will require addicts to visit a designated hospital or police station in Tainan City or Tainan Country to receive their daily dose of methadone per, said Chu.

He added that counselling is also required for those participating in the program.

Chu added that those who have used heroin for more than one year, are not infected with HIV and have already participated in narcotic treatment at the Ministry of Justice's drug abstention and treatment centers are qualified to participate in the program.

A health department official Lin Shui-lung (林水龍) yesterday said the health department welcomed the experimental program to help drug addicts kick their habit.

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