Use and Abuse 3
This newspaper report today gives an idea of the scale of the Subutex problem (emphasis mine):
Govt to tackle the abuse of drug Subutex
WITHIN two weeks, the Government will unveil a strategy to tackle the rising trend of Subutex abuse, which is the only approved drug prescribed to help heroin addicts cope with withdrawal symptoms.
Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan said he was worried by the "Singaporean" problem, with 40 per cent of the estimated 4,000 abusers from the Malay community, and another 40 per cent from the Chinese community. The trend is especially alarming in Dr Khaw's Sembawang constituency, where the issue of Subutex abuse crops up at every residents' meeting.
"The addicts … cause a social nuisance, leaving behind needles after they use them in the toilets and corridors, frightening the neighbours," he said.
Subutex abusers get a "high" by injecting themselves with the dissolved drug. When used correctly, the pill treats heroin withdrawal symptoms such as nausea.
Between 2002 and 2004, the number of Subutex pills prescribed here is estimated to have shot up from 78,764 to 619,472.
Dr Khaw said his office and the Ministry of Home Affairs would come up with a solution that is "complete" rather than "symptomatic".
There has recently been talk about making Subutex a controlled drug so that doctors selling it would be held even more accountable. Anyone caught with the drug without a prescription could face a fine and/or imprisonment.
Last October, the Government sought to tighten supply by making it mandatory that doctors submit details on patients using Subutex. — CHRISTIE LOH
angry doc likes numbers - they fuel his imagination.
The demand for Subutex increased nearly seven times over the course of two years. Now even if all the Subutex prescribed were to heroin addicts using them as prescribed, the sheer increase in the number of heroin addicts would have been a cause for concern. And that's not even counting Subutex that had been brought into the country illegally.
So did the people who knew of the number of Subutex tablets prescribed in the country conclude that the heroin addiction problem must have improved dramatically over those years, judging from the number of addictis who must have been on therapy? If that was indeed their conclusion, did they check with the Central Narcotics Bureau to see if this was consistent with their surveillance of the drug abuse situation in Singapore?
Or did they not know that the drug was being abused at all?
Well, perhaps all that are not important now. What angry doc is more interested in now is the Ministry's "complete" solution to the problem.
Stay tuned. I know I will.