Press Release

“Report of the Working Group on Treatment of Under 18 year olds Presenting to Treatment Services with Serious Drug Problems” is published by the Tánaiste

The Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney, T.D., today welcomed the publication of the Report of the Working Group on Treatment of Under 18 year olds Presenting to Treatment Services with Serious Drug Problems.

This report was produced by a Group established by the former Eastern Regional Health Authority (ERHA) and chaired by the Department of Health and Children and is one of the Actions in Ireland’s National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008. The Group comprised a broad range of statutory and non-statutory service providers and community representatives.

The Tánaiste expressed her thanks and appreciation to the Group for their work in producing this report. At the publication of the report, the Tánaiste said, “It is a very comprehensive report which sets out ways of recognising potential problems and intervening at an early stage of an individual’s drug misuse.”

The Group undertook a number of initiatives including a review of services within the former ERHA and of service gaps nationally. The conclusions can be grouped into four broad categories: pattern of serious drug misuse amongst children and their implications, legal and ethical issues, model for services delivery, and access to services.

Between 1991 and 2000 there were 2,034 first treatment contacts by under 18s within the Eastern Region reported to the National Drug Treatment Reporting System. Since 1996 there were 629 first treatment contacts by under 18 year olds outside the Eastern Region. “This report is a major step towards addressing the needs of these vulnerable young people” said the Tánaiste.

The Group acknowledged that there were complex issues involved in the legal and ethical approach to treating young people. In its report, the Group offer guidance to professionals working with young drug misusers in relation to these matters.

In the Irish context, treatment services for child and adolescent problem drug misusers should be based on a four tiered approach:

Tier 1

Services which have contact with young people but which do not have specialist expertise in either adolescents or addiction, such as teachers, social services, members of an Garda Síochána, GPs, community and family groups.

Tier 2

Services which have specialist expertise in either adolescents or addiction, but not both, such as Juvenile Liaison Officers, Local Drugs Task Forces, home school liaison, Youthreach and drug treatment centres.

Tier 3

Services which have specialist expertise in both adolescent and addiction, i.e. multi-disciplinary teams comprising people with a speciality in adolescent addiction.

Tier 4

Services have specialist expertise in both adolescents and addiction, and the capacity to deliver brief but very intensive treatment, e.g. in-patient or day hospital.

The Group felt strongly that the services which existed on the ground tended to fall into Tiers 1, 2 or 4, and that the greatest need in terms of developing this model of service delivery was in Tier 3.

Because there is a strong perception among under 18 year old drug misusers of a lack of services catering for and suitable to their needs, the Group recommends that services should:

  • strive to be adolescent specific, but not necessarily be addiction specific;
  • be local and accessible;
  • have multiple disciplines available on-site;
  • be able to offer assessment, treatment and aftercare.

In anticipation of the report, the Department of Health and Children has allocated funding of €500,000 to the HSE Eastern Region to fund the development of services for this age cohort.

The Tánaiste also stated that “every effort must be made to protect young people from becoming involved in drugs in the first place. Where there is drug misuse, appropriate treatment options must be put in place at as early an age as possible.”

The Tánaiste concluded by saying, “I am confident that the recommendations in this report will have a positive impact on drug use among this cohort.”