MTA Program coordinator David Dalton says MTA is well placed to help those addicted to codeine as they come to grips with the rescheduling of the drug.

The Buttery’s Maintenance To Abstinence (MTA) Program, as one of only two residential opioid treatment programs in the country, is a unique and much-needed service. This year, it is anticipated the program will be in even greater demand.

On 1 February 2018, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) up-scheduled codeine from a Schedule 3 Drug to Schedule 4, meaning you can no longer buy codeine products over the counter at your pharmacy.

In 2016, more than 500,000 Australians used over-the-counter codeine medications without medical supervision. Given that codeine can be a habit-forming drug, The Buttery’s MTA program coordinator David Dalton said he was pleased about the new tighter regulations, but he also anticipates an increase in people seeking out the program over the next six months.

“The new regulation will hit GPs hard. Some will steer their patients into a pain management program, but others will need to go down the addiction treatment path,” said David.

“Some people may find themselves horrified by the fact that they have an addiction. They may come to realise that they are codeine-dependent and that the quantity that they had been taking had been way too much to sustain.

“There is still a lot of stigma around addiction. Addicts can still be seen as ‘junkies’. People, particularly older people, are taking those packets of codeine and they are alone.

So, for many, the hardest part will be accepting they are addicted and then dealing with that shame. That part is hard to do on your own.”

David said the residential MTA program is an effective way to minimise the risk of relapse as its psycho-social model tackles so much more than simply the physical addiction to opioids.

“We have educational groups here dealing with a range of issues including anxiety and depression. Recovery is about establishing connection with people. “One of the biggest benefits of the MTA program comes from the therapeutic value of talking with others, being introduced to 12-step fellowships like NA, as well as establishing a relapse prevention plan.

These are the things that will hopefully help people live a life free of opioids and opioid substitutes,” said David.

The MTA program has always been a huge asset, with people seeking placements from all around the country. Now, it is poised to be an even greater resource.