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New effort to improve treatment of drug addicts

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
Publication date 21.1.2008 7.55
Press release 14/2008

A new MSAH regulation due to take effect from the beginning of February aims to upgrade the treatment of people addicted to heroin and other opiates. The move will ensure better access to substitute drugs for withdrawal and rehab treatment.

An enquiry carried out last August into the state of the treatment of drug addicts in ten of Finland’s main cities found that the availability of treatment varies. Waiting periods for treatment for the most part stretches to months and none of the cities meet the requirements of legislation guaranteeing treatment.

The new regulation stipulates that critical cases are to receive specialist treatment and that others are to be handled by primary healthcare. Primary healthcare units will no longer need to make prior notification to provincial administrations before offering treatment and treatment needs assessments and initiating treatment will be more a part of clinical services than of institutional care.

The substitute drugs buprenorphine is nowadays more ubiquitous as a street drug than heroin, and the majority of addicts seeking treatment are buprenorfine users. There are anywhere between 3,700 and 4,900 opiate addicts in Finland, of whom 1,000 are in treatment.

Medication containing buprenorphine or methadone has been available for people in rehab only at clinics offering treatment. The new regulation will make it possible for addicts to receive medicines containing a mix of buprenorphine and naloxone on prescription. Substitute drugs containing pure buprenorphine are no longer available.

Further information: Ms Terhi Hermanson, Ministerial Councellor, Health/Medical Affairs tel. +358 9 160 73901

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