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Methadone patient driving concerns

Media release - Candor Trust

Methadone patient driving concerns

A woman has appeared in Court on drug driving charges today in relation to incidents of dangerous driving in the Bay of Plenty. The methadone patient drove dangerously after sleeping in the car at a service station, with children aboard and other motorists had to evade.

Candor Trust says this scenario is quite common as shown by the ESR drug driving study results which show about a dozen dead methadone drivers over the last 2 years.

Using the formula applied to alcohol harm it can be safely assumed methadone drivers were also implicated in a similar number of innocents deaths (on the road).

This is a grossly disproportionate level of road trauma in relation to the actual numbers of methadone patients. It constitutes involvement in 10% of the road toll by under 1% of the population, and double the involvement of untreated heroin addicts.

Candor believes the reason for this is that drug abuse is often ongoing (statistics show in around 70% of patients),  but the added stability in addicts lives due to becoming patients versus "street users" likely results in greater vehicle ownership in the treated versus untreated population.

There have been several incidences of methadone patients crashing, killing and maiming in recent years. Children are often jeopardised as parents get preference to go on the program.

With the new drug driving law on the table it would be in fitting with International practise and only decent and appropriate to place tighter controls on the driving "rights" of unstable methadone patients.

About 10% of them are being permitted to drive when they are often unfit to do so. The prescriber's have an ethical responsibility to ensure the treatment is delivered safely - and not posing a risk to patients themselves, their own children and the general public.

This responsibility is not being adopted voluntarily, shown by the considerable road carnage caused by methadone patients - almost exclusively in NZ. Where Medical Practitioners are not clear about their duties the law may need to be more prescriptive.

In the United Kingdom methadone patients can not be licensed unless declared stable by their Dr after entering and during the program. And strict controls are placed around occupational driving for methadone patients that do not exist here.

Candors recent roadside drug testing survey found that most methadone clients interviewed had bad crash histories and reported using cannabis, P and injecting drugs while driving or on rest stops. A clear need for greater education and supervision was apparent.


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