Drive Home on Methadone

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Drug-Driving Laws Placing Australian Road Users at Risk

Methadone is a powerful substance that mimics the effects of heroin. Under current laws, methadone users are permitted to drive with the drug in their system.

The extreme risk of this legislation was highlighted in the tragic crash on Boxing Day. A 50-year-old NSW man who was driving home after having attended a methadone clinic crossed on to the wrong side of the road and plowed into a car carrying the Falkholt family. Both the man and the Falkholt family lost their lives.

A person with methadone in their system is experiencing similar mental-physical-psychological effects to what heroin delivers but they are allowed to be in control of a fast moving object which requires split-second decision making to operate it.

The law says a person can have methadone in their body while they are driving but they cannot be under the influence of it. Herein lies the problem;

If a person has received methadone, it is affecting them. The synthetic substance has entered the bloodstream which is then present in every part of the body.

Mr. Brian Lloyd from Drug-Safe Communities explains:

“We are asking a person whose judgement and logic is impaired by methadone to self-diagnose if they are ‘under the influence’ or not. It is comparable to asking an alcoholic if they are drunk while they drink and drive.”

“When a Drug-Safe Communities field tester identifies a person with alcohol or a narcotic in their system, we are required by law to provide alternative transport to take them to a safe environment to recover, until a drug test indicates they are free of any effects. So it is baffling that the law permits a methadone user to drive.”

Facts about Methadone

Methadone is an opioid and used as a prescription drug to curb withdrawal symptoms for heroin addicts. It is actually a synthetic version of heroin which mimics the effects that a heroin user experiences.

Methadone is a powerful drug and by no means ‘safe’. Methadone is a depressant and dramatically slows down the messages between your brain and your body.

When a heroin user stops taking heroin and joins a legal methadone program, they are not going ‘clean’. They have simply replaced one destructive substance for another.

Methadone might be helping addicts to stay away from heroin but it is not helping them walk away from drugs altogether. It is highly addictive. It is a free narcotic that provides them with the ‘hit’ they crave. Yes, it is professionally managed through pharmacies which determine the dosages but it is simply a regulated synthetic drug replacing an uncontrolled opiate.

There are methadone users who attend the methadone clinics with dentist type cotton packs in their cheeks so that they can fill the cotton wool with the methadone dose and sell it on the street for their next hit of heroin.

History shows that about 8 out of every 10 heroin users are still reliant on the drug. Few people walk away.

Statistics

Road Safety Commission statistics reveal that 161 people lost their lives in vehicle accidents in WA during 2015, 194 were killed in 2016, and 158 in 2017. The national average is around 5.3 killed per 100,000 population, while WA is a staggering 7.3. The facts also show that around 37% of those killed had an illegal drug in their system, while 25% was alcohol-related.

On census day, June 2011: 3,382 patients in WA were receiving pharmacotherapy (methadone or similar). There were more than 46,000 across Australia. The median age was 38yrs.The number of patients in treatment nationally has increased 88% since 1998
(Source: National Opioid Pharmacotherapy Statistics Annual Data collection: 2011 report)

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