Press Release

Minister of State with responsibility for Drugs Strategy, Róisín Shortall T.D. addresses the National Drugs Conference of Ireland. “Drug Interventions: What Works?”

Róisín Shortall, Minister of State with responsibility for Drugs Strategy, speaking at the opening of the National Drugs Conference of Ireland under the theme “Drug Interventions: What Works?” said today (Thursday, 3 November) that “It is very important that the initiatives we take to address problem drug use are effective for the people involved and to ensure that the limited public funds available are being spent in the most optimum way”.

She went on to say that “if we successfully implement the Treatment and Rehabilitation Actions of the National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016 we will be going a long way towards success in our drug interventions”. “The real challenge”, she continued “is that our response must be client centred and provide a continuum of care to enable people to address their overall health and social care needs”.

Minister Shortall continued “I am very focused on ensuring that there is an increased emphasis on moving people on from drug treatment to a drug-free life where that is achievable. It is my belief that there has been insufficient focus on this ambitious goal in the past. In short, we must present drug users with the opportunities to achieve a life without drugs”.

The Minister went on to speak of the improvements being made in the area of treatment and rehabilitation of problem drug users “Clients can usually access methadone provision within one month of assessment in Dublin and we now have a major focus on increasing the availability of services outside Dublin, with additional services having been put in place recently in Limerick, Tralee, Cork, Waterford, Kilkenny, Wexford and Dundalk”. She also spoke of increased detox facilities that have come on stream in a number of locations.

Minister Shortall referred to “a major expansion in the provision of needle exchange services in approximately 65 community pharmacies at various locations outside Dublin. The role out of these services began last month and this initiative, along with the needle exchange services provided in Dublin through HSE clinics and voluntary sector services will provide broad national coverage”.

Referring to alcohol, Minister Shortall said “Alcohol has become more readily available, particularly through some mixed trade outlets, and is cheaper than heretofore”. She views the misuse of alcohol as primarily a public health issue, and maintains that “a societal change of attitudes” is needed to break the cycle of over-consumption. “We must change our approach to drinking for our own benefit and for the benefit of future generations”, she maintained. A National Substance Misuse Strategy incorporating alcohol and drugs is being drawn up at present.

Minister Shortall acknowledged the role of the Health Service Executive (National Addiction Training Programme) in sponsoring the conference in collaboration with the Irish Needle Exchange Forum, the Ana Liffey Drug Project, Coolmine Therapeutic Community, and the Irish Association of Alcohol and Addiction Counsellors.