The forthcoming opening of a methadone treatment clinic in Arklow has refocused attention on the controversy which has surrounded this issue for some time. When the proposal to open a centre some years ago emerged, two opposing groups appeared on the scene. One group favoured the clinic and another group opposing it. The advocates seemed community conscious and progressive, supporting the rights of the addict striving for recovery and a return to society. That group also felt that these clinics would eventually be accepted as local people realised their fears were unfounded. Their methods in putting their point of view across seemed reasoned and calm. They asserted that the facility would have a placid effect on addicts as they were weaned off heroin and that the results would be evidenced by a reduction in crime and the attendant nuisance affect on society. They also claimed that the treatment of addicts in their own areas would reduce the risks associated with drawing large numbers of addicts into central areas, whereby each area would deal with its own problems. These lower numbers would result in a reduced visibility of addicts in local areas.
Those opposed to methadone clinics were originally grouped into two sub-categories, one group having never been involved in drugs, were strongly opposed to any form of drug activity in their area. They claimed that such centres failed elsewhere even when more than one was set up in the same town. Their main objection was the exposure of children to the presence of addicts in the vicinity of the clinic.The second category in the anti methadone group were former drug users who felt deeply that these clinics would not provide real recovery. They expressed their point of view at public demonstrations in a manner which sometimes became violent.
Perspectives on both sides of the debate seem to have switched with the support for clinics appearing to be based on administrative concerns from both a medical and government perspective. The anti-methadone group seemed to be unsympathetic to the needs of the addict attempting to recover and return to their community based on concern for the long term interests of the patient to a lifetime of methadone dependency is regarded as a cop-out where the patient is prevented from reaching their full human potential.
This lobby suggested the Open Prison in Arklow
which faced threatened closure would have been an ideal location for the centre where it could treat addicts from the entire county would have been outside the town and away from populated areas. This location provided the resources to treat addicts in a holistic manner where addicts could benefit from a full recovery programme of detoxification, and rehabilitation rather than the inhuman methadone regime which did not address the root of the addict’s problem. This group cited this as an example inefficient use of public resources. It also suggested that the voluntary sector could make a better contribution than the state sector.
Thus the pro centre stance which first appeared more humane in placing the interests of the individual addict above those of the community, pitted against the aggressive element who appeared to be nimbyistic who were uncaring for the individual appears to be reversed as the methadone treatment could be regarded as catering to the interests of the community while the anti-clinic lobby seems to be putting the long term interests of the individual and the wider community. The failure of the state to make available a facility which it was recently considering closing down places it in the dock with methadone supporters
Given the emergence of the anti clinic from within the community as against the medical and statutory sector who support the methadone centre, the arguments of the former which evolved logically from the oppositional to a real community based solution from a voluntary perspective, the weight of logic appears to be on their side.
Whatever side one takes in this debate the interests of the addict and his or her capacity to be allowed to develop their potential to contribute to their community must be of paramount concern to all