Three-year-old dies from father's methadone
10 January 2006, BRUSSELS – The death of a three-year-old girl in Wallonia from an accidental methadone overdose has raised concerns about the system of treating heroin addicts.
10 January 2006
BRUSSELS – The death of a three-year-old girl in Wallonia from an accidental methadone overdose has raised concerns about the system of treating heroin addicts.
On Tuesday, La Libre Belgique reported that three-year-old Carla had died the previous day after taking a methadone capsule which her father, a recovering heroin addict, had left on the table.
The toddler fell asleep in an armchair and her father did not realise she was being poisoned until an hour-and-a-half later.
The emergency services rushed to the scene, but Carla was already dead.
The case led health experts to reiterate advice to heroin addicts that doses of methadone prescribed to them, when taken by non-addicts, are dangerous, particularly for children.
Doctors treating addicts commonly prescribe 50mg, two tablets, of methadone, but as little as 10mg is lethal to a child. Experts said medical attention should immediately be sought if anyone accidentally took methadone.
In Belgium there are some 11,000 patients being treated with methadone, according to Yves Ledoux, a sociologist for the Belgian Pharmaceutical Association, APB.
During the last 10 years, one person a month on average has been rushed to hospital A&E wards after taking methadone, said Ledoux. Often the patients are children.
If the patients get immediate medical attention, the effects of methadone are treatable.
Carla's case comes after a man was convicted last month for giving methadone capsules to inmates at Huy Prison. One man had been found dead as a result of taking a capsule and another inmate had been found in a coma.
When methadone treatment was introduced in Belgium in the 1990s addicts had to take the methadone in the presence of a pharmacist.
Now, once a patient's treatment is well underway and the doctor trusts the patient to continue it properly, capsules are prescribed to be taken at home – with an amount given which is enough for one or two weeks.
In 2004, a law was introduced to force manufacturers to sell methadone capsules with child safety caps. "The problem is that a lot of patients can't open them and they break them with hammer blows", said Ledoux.
The APB is introducing a programme to make methadone patients more aware of its risks to non-addicts and particularly children.
[Copyright Expatica News 2006]
Subject: Belgian news