The Minister for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, Frank Feighan TD, has acknowledged the publication today of the Health Research Board’s (HRB) latest research into treated problem drug use in the seven year period 2013-2019.
The National Drug Treatment Reporting System has shown an overall increase of 1,658 or 18% in the number of treated cases recorded between 2013 and 2019. These figures highlight the levels of increased demand for drug treatment services nationwide.
Between 2018 and 2019 there was an increase of 3.8% or 390 cases in the number of cases presenting for treatment.
Opioids continue to be the most commonly reported main problem drug at 39%, followed by cocaine and cannabis at 24% and 23.5% per cent respectively.
In looking at the patterns and trends in treatment cases since 2013, it is clear that opioid use has decreased from 51% of cases treated in 2013 to 39% of cases treated in 2019. The increase in cocaine use stands out. It has increased from 8% of cases in 2013 to 24% of cases in 2019.
The Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy Frank Feighan, said “I welcome this data which has been released today by the HRB as it clearly illuminates a worrying development in relation to the continuing rise of cocaine use and crack cocaine use in Ireland.
“The HRB data also highlights significant decreases in opioid use and just how well drug treatment services nationwide have responded to the increased demand. The investment in treatment services over the last number of years under Reducing Harm Supporting Recovery has enabled us to increase the capacity to meet the extra treatment demand.”
The HRB plays an important role in supporting high quality monitoring, evaluation and research to ensure policies and practices are evidence informed. Their research contributed to the development in 2019 of the €750,000 multiannual investment plan under the National Drugs Strategy for 14 strategic health initiatives. These initiatives will strengthen the implementation of the Strategy, where the focus is on early harm reduction, responding to emerging trends and patterns of substance misuse, improving access to services for people with complex needs.
The Department of Health works with the HSE to raise awareness of the dangers associated with drugs through the Drugs.ie website. In 2019, the HSE developed and promoted two national campaigns aimed at students and the festival goers, who may not present at traditional addiction services.
Earlier this year, in recognition of the increased risks posed to drug users during COVID-19 the Department of Health and the HSE developed two ‘Harm Reduction Posters’ directed at those with substance abuse issues and those with alcohol related problems respectively. The key harm reduction messages in the posters are person centred and offer simple advice and suggestions in line with the person centred approach of the National Drugs Strategy, Healthy Ireland and Slaintecare.
The Department of Health, as part of the introduction of the Health Diversion Programme, is providing €100,000 in 2020 to develop a national harm reduction campaign to raise awareness of the risks associated with drug use. This will include the use of club drugs, festival drug use and new trends.
Minister Feighan added “As Minister with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, I believe that addressing the drug problem in Ireland requires a multi-pronged approach; providing targeted harm-reduction and prevention initiatives in tandem with treatment services. I would strongly encourage people with substance abuse issues to contact the HSE’s Drug and Alcohol Helpline which is available from Mon-Fri. 9.30-5.30pm 1800 459 459.”