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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 3 Hansard (6 March) . . Page.. 595 ..

MR RUGENDYKE (continuing):

He has been receiving this new treatment for the past 12 months, with positive results. Mr Sands said:

There was no way I was going back on methadone. It had just taken 10 years of my life, nearly killed me, and here they are trying to put me back on methadone. Although I was critically ill I walked out of hospital rather than go back on methadone.

Minister, has the ACT health department assessed morphine for the treatment of heroin addiction? Could you advise me whether it is viewed as a viable method of treating heroin addiction.

MR MOORE: Mr Speaker, as you would be aware, a ministerial conference not so long ago agreed to trial a range of pharmacotherapies across Australia. Oral morphine, as I recall, was one of those pharmacotherapies that were worth trialling. Whenever we are looking at intervention in terms of pharmacotherapies, I think it is appropriate that we ought not to rely just on anecdotal evidence, but that we should trial each of those pharmacotherapies to see their efficacy and determine how useful they are in terms of treatment.

I am aware of morphine being used for some time in other places in Australia. For example, I know that some people who had been on heroin in the Northern Territory, where methadone was not available, were prescribed morphine some years ago to assist them, but it was only applied in cases where they were in great pain and had put a case to that effect. I understand that the morphine was delivered in terms of the pain rather than in terms of the addiction. The outcome of that, once again, was anecdotal evidence. I think that in looking at the range of pharmacotherapies we have to make sure that we do study them carefully.

As you know, Mr Rugendyke, this government has committed itself to providing diacetyl morphine to people who are dependent on heroin because we think that it is a possible pharmacotherapy. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister, John Howard, has made it very difficult for us to do that, and certainly was not prepared to approach the International Narcotics Control Board and ask them to approve the use of heroin in the treatment of heroin addiction, diacetyl morphine being heroin.

Mr Rugendyke, we will look at that. We look at all the pharmacotherapies and make sure that we can expand our range of treatments available. I should point out to you that the research done on methadone has shown that it is still the single most successful treatment for heroin; but, even as the single most successful treatment for heroin, it does not suit some people. Some people would prefer to go cold turkey, some would prefer to use the Salvation Army's 12-step plan. We have had significant success at Karralika. Different people respond to different treatments in different ways and I think that we ought to ensure that a drug like morphine is one of our treatments. Mr Rugendyke, if you would recommend that, I would take that on as something that we should proceed with.

MR RUGENDYKE: Minister, I would be happy to recommend it as a drug treatment. I wonder what further investigation of this method of treatment for adults is being undertaken by your department, given that morphine is already used to treat drug-affected babies.

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