Review of methadone treatment in Australia

6.7 Northern Territory

Page last updated: October 1995

6.7.1 History

There is no methadone program in the NT although that was not always the case, and in the 1970s a program was established in Darwin. There is little documentation about that program, but apparently there were abuses of it, and methadone was offered for sale. For that and other reasons it was disbanded in 1978. A program for treatment for opioid dependency was vested in a Therapeutic Community at that time and has been in operation since.

6.7.2 Current situation

There are two principal pieces of legislation dealing with opioid use in NT, and there is no provision in either of the Acts to prescribe opioids on a discretional basis for the purposes of opioid dependency, although there is some evidence to suggest that practitioners are occasionally doing so for therapeutic opioid dependence or for clients who are intravenous drug users who are HIV positive or who are pregnant.

There is a needle exchange program which supplies needles and syringes to regular injecting drug users (estimated in 1991 to be 1,000), and to a further three thousand casual injecting drug users who are likely to be using amphetamines.

In lieu of methadone, the treatment options currently available include detoxification, counselling and self-help groups.

6.7.3 Statistics

Data relating to opioid users have been difficult to collect, but in 1991 there were 73 individuals presenting with opioid drug problems at NT treatment agencies. A survey published in 1991 concluded that there were between 500-1500 intravenous drug users in the Darwin area.
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