Health | To ask the Minister for Health the degree to which he and his Department remain alert to the evidence of serious drug abuse in towns, villages and cities throughout the country including Dublin
To ask the Minister for Health the degree to which he and his Department remain alert to the evidence of serious drug abuse in towns, villages and cities throughout the country including Dublin; if specific measures are contemplated to encourage moving away from illicit drugs; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The National Drug and Alcohol Survey (NDAS) collects information on alcohol and tobacco consumption and drug use among the general population. It also surveys people’s attitudes and perceptions relating to tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use and records the impact of drug use on communities. The 2019–2020 NDAS, published by the Health research Board in July 2021, collected information from 5,762 people aged 15 years and older across Ireland and can be found at the following link: https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/34287/
The findings of the survey show that, overall, the use of illegal drugs has remained at a similar level to that recorded in the 2014/15 survey, while an increase was seen in the use of cocaine and ecstasy. Cannabis is still the most prevalent illegal drug used in Ireland, but has also shown a decrease from 6.5% to 5.9% when compared to the 2014/15 survey. A significant decrease in the instances of Cannabis Use Disorder has also been recorded. The HRB is current analysing the survey data by CHO and the results will be published in the coming months.
As part of Budget 2022, I announced a €2 million community services enhancement fund to enhance community-based drug and alcohol services. The aim of the fund is to enhance access to and delivery of drug and alcohol services in the community, which is a strategic priority for the national drugs strategy 2021-2025.
I have allocated between €200,000 and €240,000 per annum to the nine community healthcare organisations (CHOs). The funding will be allocated on a three-year cycle, with ongoing monitoring and evaluation, to ensure that services are effective in addressing the needs of people who use drugs and alcohol. Twenty-five percent of the funding allocations is ring-fenced to increase access to and the provision of drug and alcohol services for women, ethnic minorities and the LGBTI+ community.
Profiling the drug and alcohol needs of the population across the CHOs, including data from the NDAS, will enable the development of new services and the measurement of their impact over time. Already, we are seeing new drug and alcohol needs emerge, whether in the night-time economy, among young people, in disadvantaged communities, or polydrug use.
I believe that drug and alcohol services should be provided based on population needs, as this is both equitable and evidence-based. I also want services to be delivered in the community so that health care is closer to people’s homes, as set out in the Sláintecare reform programme. By integrating drug and alcohol services as part of community care, the health needs of people who use drugs can be better met and the stigma of drug and alcohol use can be reduced. These are practical steps to strengthen the health-led response to drug and alcohol use.
I allocated €850,000 for an initiative to reduce the health-related harms from cocaine and crack cocaine. This initiative will target disadvantaged communities that are worst affected by cocaine and crack cocaine and contribute to a whole of government response to the social determinants and consequences of drug use in these communities.
Drug use seriously impacts all parts of society, and I am committed to the implementation of the health led approach and to supporting people on their journey to recovery.
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