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March 31, 2004

‘Collecting the evidence: Clients’ views on drug services’

(Source: Daily Dose, 31 Mar 2004)

A report on a consultation survey of clients’ views on drug services was released on 30 March 2004 by Addaction, the UK drug and alcohol treatment charity. ‘Collecting the evidence; Clients’ views on drug services’, gives a revealing insight into the lives, opinions and backgrounds of people who misuse drugs and alcohol and who have sought help for their problems. The publication is described as ‘a comprehensive and disturbing report based on one of the largest samples collected of clients’ views and experiences. It highlights what has worked successfully and what has not worked so well in the continuing delivery of drug and alcohol treatment.’ The full report may be accessed at:

Damage to children of drug-abusing parents

(Source:'The home-breaking habit' : The Guardian Unlimited, 31 Mar 2004)

There are an estimated 350,000 children in the UK with drug dependent parents; one for every known user. Drug agencies insist that parents with substance abuse problems are not necessarily bad parents, but a child brought up in the chaotic world of an addict is unlikely to escape the long-term damaging effects of instability, the physical risks of needle injury or accidental drug consumption, and the social deprivation, poverty and crime often linked with drug abuse. The emotional effects of parents’ drug use are revealed in a study funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, ‘Risk and Resilience: Older Children of Drug- and Alcohol-Misusing Parents’ to be published next month.

Countering opium production in Afghanistan is theme of Berlin conference

(Source:'Britain criticised for Afghan drug policy' : Times UK Online 31 Mar 2004)

The drug trade in Afghanistan is the central issue at the international donor conference opening today in Berlin. Britain has taken the lead role in countering the production of narcotics in Afghanistan – the source of 74 per cent of world illicit opium production – but has come under criticism for not doing enough to stem the flow of heroin on the streets of Europe. The German Development Aid minister said, ‘the British made the initial mistake of buying up the poppy harvests. The international community should be putting more emphasis on finding alternative sources of income for farmers.’ Kevin Henry, of Care International, which is active in Afghanistan, says that the British-led policy of purchasing poppy crops has merely boosted the international drug trade. ‘Farmers have been increasing their poppy planting either to harvest and sell, or for the compensation that comes later from destroying the crop,’ he said. An opium farmer can expect to earn $2,500 (£1,400) a year, according to Mr Henry, four times the amount earned by a farmer growing legal crops, such as wheat

Dail Debates. written Answers. British-Irish Agreement.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies received from the Departments [unrevised].

Questions Nos. 1 to 10 , inclusive, answered orally.

13. Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when the British-Irish interdepartmental co-ordinators group last met; its purpose and functions; its programme of work for 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4776/04]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): I assume the Deputy is referring to the group which meets to co-ordinate the Irish position on the work of the British-Irish Council. In this context officials from relevant Irish Government Departments meet as appropriate to consult and liaise on the ongoing programme of work of the BIC, established under Strand Three of the Good Friday Agreement. The group is chaired by officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs. The Department of the Taoiseach and other Departments which are involved in the Council’s programme, including the Departments of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Social and Family Affairs, the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Health and Children, are represented. The most recent meeting of the group took place in February 2004.

The British-Irish Council’s current programme of work includes a number of priority areas as agreed at the inaugural BIC summit in December 1999. These include the important area of misuse of drugs where the Irish Government takes the lead role, with the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs co-ordinating the work.

The Government also participates in all of the other areas of work within the British-Irish Council including environment, social inclusion, knowledge economy, transport, health - telemedicine, tourism, and minority and lesser-used languages. The next BIC summit is currently scheduled to take place later this year in Guernsey, focusing on tourism. Ministerial and official meetings in a number of other priority areas are also planned in the coming months.

The Government remains committed to the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and to the successful operation of all of its institutions.

March 30, 2004

Powerful new drugs being bought online

(Source:'Web labs rush to a new legal high' : Irish Examiner, p. 15, 30 Mar 2004)

A new breed of potent hallucinogenic drugs can now be bought online. These compounds do not yet have street names but are known by abbreviations of their chemical composition. Euphemistically known as ‘research chemicals’, including 2C-1 (being tipped as ‘the next ecstasy’), 2-CT-2, 2C-B, DMT, and 5-Meo-DMT, are legally manufactured by commercial laboratories, often in the US. While most of these chemicals are illegal to possess in almost all EU countries, a determined Internet user can buy them online and have them delivered by courier. Club Scene Ireland, an Internet resource providing information on drugs for clubbers and club owners, has come across both 2C-1 and 2C-B ‘generally sold as small pills or in powder form. It has been reported that it is appearing in ecstasy tablets, typically in small dosages [and] is generally ingested. … It is not thought to be physically addictive. Tolerance builds up quite quickly.’ As with any psychoactive substance, these chemicals can lead to serious mental health problems and, if used to excess, can result in death.

Only five soldiers test positive in random drug tests

(Source:'Fifth soldier axed for drug-taking' : Irish Daily Star, p. 14, 30 Mar 2004)

Compulsory drug tests were introduced in the Defence Forces in February 2002 and the tests commenced in November 2002. Of the 1,600 members randomly tested since then, only five have tested positive for a banned substance. It is understood that all five positive tests were for ‘soft’ drugs such as cannabis, and that the soldiers involved, who were discharged or retired, were employed in the lower ranks and none had posts of seniority. A spokesman for the Defence Forces said that even five positive results were five to many and that drug taking among their personnel is considered a very serious offence. Defence Minister Michael Smith said target testing of 10 per cent of the permanent Defence Force has now been achieved.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. School Discipline

167. Mr. English asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to reports from the ASTI on the growing number of students involved in binge drinking which is having a detrimental effect upon their work rate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9683/04]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. N. Dempsey): My Department is aware of the many concerns which have been raised about young people’s behaviour in relation to alcohol. For most young people it is the misuse of substances - particularly alcohol - which is the greatest threat to their physical and emotional health and to their well-being. As a consequence, students’ engagement with their studies can be seriously affected.

While education has a role in addressing the problem, there appears to be an expectation in some quarters that the education system can effect change even in the absence of consistent support from the drinks industry, parents and society as a whole. The drinks industry needs to adopt a more responsible attitude to the promotion of alcohol, especially in targeting young people, and retailers should ensure that the law on the sale of alcohol to those under the legal age limit is rigorously observed. Parents have a responsibility in helping children and young people to adopt sensible and responsible attitudes and behaviours in relation to alcohol. In general the community as a whole needs to reflect on the general attitude to alcohol use.

Schools can play an active role in addressing the problems and consequences of the misuse of alcohol through the SPHE - social, personal and health education - curriculum which focuses on developing an informed and sensible attitude to substances. Through the SPHE curriculum, students are enabled to develop a framework for responsible and informed decision-making about their health, personal lives and social development. In particular, the substance use module of the SPHE curriculum focuses on the issues relating to the use and misuse of a range of substances with particular attention being paid to alcohol and tobacco. While most young people are aware of the implications and consequences of misusing substances including alcohol and tobacco, the SPHE curriculum actively seeks to promote healthy and responsible choices by students in relation to their lives.

All post-primary schools were required to implement the SPHE curriculum as part of the junior cycle core curriculum from September 2003. The 2003-04 return of pupil information from 743 post-primary schools indicates full compliance with this requirement. Ongoing support in the implementation of SPHE continues to be provided to schools through the post-primary SPHE support service, a partnership between the Department of Education and Science, the Department of Health and Children and the health boards.

Supports are also being provided to schools through the SPHE support service for the development of their substance use policies within which alcohol can be addressed alongside tobacco and drugs. Guidelines for developing a school substance use policy were prepared by my Department together with the Department of Health and Children and the health boards and circulated to schools in 2002. The central objective of a school substance use policy is the welfare, care, protection and education of every young person. The school policy can ensure schools have a coherent framework for providing appropriate education and managing issues relating to substance misuse, including alcohol misuse, in a planned and considered way.

March 29, 2004

Supergrass plea bargains in UK to be assessed in Ireland

Source:'Officials to study UK plans to cut ‘supergrass’ prison terms ' : Irish Times, p. 3, 29 Mar 2004

Plans in the UK to significantly reduce prison terms for gangland figures who turn ‘supergrass’ will be studied by the Department of Justice. The plea-bargaining measure is listed in a Home Office paper that will reduce sentences for criminals that provide information on leading figures involved in drugs, human trafficking and money laundering. A spokesperson for the Department of Justice admitted it was monitoring the events in Britain. “We are constantly looking at what developments are taking place in other jurisdictions, particularly in other common law countries, so we will be watching this with interest”, the spokesperson said.

Alcohol contributes to suicide

Source:'Alcohol ‘makes it easier to commit suicide’ ' : Irish Examiner, p. 4, 29 Mar 2004

Tommy Roche, founder of the Aljeff Treatment Centre, has said that alcohol makes it easier for people to commit suicide. Studies have shown that in 20% of suicides in Ireland, alcohol has been consumed beforehand. Mr Roche calls alcohol “a respecter of nobody” and his own personal experiences have led him to travel around the country to give talks on addiction. “We tell the truth and we take the gloss off alcoholism, but I’ve no problem with a person drinking if they can have a great time and go home. One of the first miracles Jesus performed was with alcohol”. Alcohol has played a tragic role in his life, with one brother, Alan committing suicide at the age of 22 after a struggle with drink and drugs. On returning from the funeral, he found that another brother, Jeffrey, aged 26, had also taken his life. Mr Roche finally beat his own battle with alcohol. “I was sick of becoming sick but saw other alcoholics go to early graves. If I had not stopped drinking, I would not be here today. There’s a lot of people like myself who can’t drink. I’ve learnt to stay out of the orchard”, he said. Naming the treatment centre after his two brothers, Aljeff has yet to find a suitable site, but received a boost when singer Sinead O’ Connor donated the proceedings of the sale her house in Atlanta, Georgia.

March 28, 2004

Gardai claim major success in tackling cocaine

Source:'Coke rap man in court' : Sunday World, p. 8, 28 Mar 2004

Members of the Garda National Drugs Unit were said to be jubilant at a successful raid in Dublin which they believe will have a major impact on cocaine distribution in the city. Paul Fitzgerald, 49, of Orwell Mews was charged with possession with intent to supply following a raid on a house in Terenure, Dublin 6. Gardai told the court that in the raid three-quarters of a kilo of cocaine was discovered, as well as a vacuum packer machine which is used to compact the drug for distribution. An application for bail made by Mr Fitzgerald was turned down on the grounds that an outstanding warrant for him existed in the UK and that he had a false drivers licence and passport. The raid occurred after a surveillance operation was put in place after information led the Gardai to believe that the house in question was supplying a large-scale drugs network.

March 27, 2004

Judge calls for life imprisonment

Source:'Methadone is criminal in some cases: judge' : Meath Chronicle, p. 10, 27 Mar 2004

Judge David Maughan said that those guilty of dealing drugs should face life sentences similar to those in Singapore. He felt that life imprisonment should mean life. The judge was making the comments in court at Oldcastle, Co. Meath, at the trial of two defendants who had stolen methadone from a maintenance programme in Cavan

Every town in midlands affected by drugs

Source:'‘Every town’ affected by drugs- MHB chairman' : Offaly Independent, p. 14, 27 Mar 2004

The chairman of the Midland Health Board (MHB) Councillor Jimmy Coyle has said that drugs have affected every town in the midlands. Cllr. Coyle made the comments in Tullamore at the monthly meeting of the MHB. Mr Coyle spoke of the misery caused by drug dealers. “They’re making millionaires out of some of these people, and ruining other people’s lives”, he said. The comments came at a meeting where Dr Patrick Doorley, director of Public Health and Planning, summarised three reports by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD). The NACD reports were ‘An overview of cocaine use in Ireland’; ‘Use of lofexidine in the management of opiate dependence syndrome’ and ‘Use of naloxone in the management of opiate dependence syndrome’.

Councillor calls for immediate sentencing of drug dealers

Source:'Tougher action on drugs sought' : Offaly Express, p. 3, 27 Mar 2004

Councillor Willie Aird called for immediate sentencing of drug dealers without having to go through all the evidence. Mr Aird made his comments to the Midland Health Board after hearing a report of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs. He backed educational programmes relating to drugs and sad that he had sympathy for the Gardai in the worsening situation.

March 26, 2004

Minister Ó Cuív Announces Details of €6.5 Million in Co-Funded Schemes for RAPID Areas

At a meeting last night (25/03/04) in Blanchardstown with representatives of RAPID Area Implementation Teams, Éamon Ó Cuiv T.D., Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs announced details of a number of new co-funded schemes for RAPID areas. This follows previous announcements regarding €4.5 million funding, which he secured in the last Budget to support small-scale actions in RAPID areas. The Minister's intention, in securing the fund, is to provide leverage funding to support relatively low cost actions, thus allowing them to be dealt with more efficiently at local level.

Continue reading Press Release

March 25, 2004

Minimum sentencing on drug offences is rarely enforced

(Source:'Why it's time the judges stepped out of their cocoons' : Irish Independent, p. 10, 25 Mar 2004)

Changes in legal provisions, specifically regarding refusal of bail and minimum sentencing for drug offences, introduced by Justice Minister John O’Donoghue in the late 1990s, have not been implemented as often by the judiciary as was intended by the Oireachtas. It has been revealed that three of the four men detained by Gardai for the firebombing of a house in Cork yesterday were already out on bail from the Special Criminal Court, and are currently awaiting trial on serious criminal charges. Bail had been granted despite Garda objections. An initiative by Minister O’Donoghue introduced a minimum ten-year sentence on drug dealers found in possession of drugs with a street value of more than €12,7000, but this measure is rarely enforced by the courts. Judges have shown that they do not welcome what they perceive as interference by politicians in how they run the courts.

Dail Debate. Written Answers. Army Barracks

56. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he has plans to increase the strength of the Army, Naval Service or Air Corps with reference to enhancing defence and surveillance capabilities to meet current or anticipated requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9502/04]

Minister for Defence (Mr. M. Smith): The White Paper on Defence of February 2000 sets out a figure of 10,500 personnel for the Permanent Defence Force, comprising 930 for the Air Corps, 1,144 for the Naval Service and 8,426 for the Army. The strength of the Permanent Defence Force as at 29 February, 2004 is as shown in the following table.

Service Officers NCOs Privates Cadets Total
Army 1022 3069 4295 97 8483
Air Corps 139 413 334 10 896
Naval Service 137 465 432 29 1063

It is my intention to maintain the established Government policy of ongoing recruitment to the Defence Forces. Recruitment into the Permanent Defence Force will continue to maintain the strength at a level required to meet military needs and as set out in the White Paper, that is, 10,500 members of the Permanent Defence Force at all ranks.

Responsibility for the prevention of illegal activities rests primarily with the civil powers such as the Garda Síochána and the Customs Service. The White Paper on Defence provides for a security role for both the Naval Service and the Air Corps to assist and support the civil authorities in this important work. While the main day to day role of the Naval Service is to provide a fishery protection service in accordance with the State’s obligations as a member of the European Union, Government measures to improve law enforcement in respect of drugs - including the establishment in 1993 of a joint task force involving the Garda, the Customs Service and the Naval Service - have helped to maximise the effective use of Naval Service resources in combating drug trafficking. The Air Corps provides air support and on occasion carries the customs national drugs team in an observation capacity for the purpose of monitoring vessels suspected of drug trafficking or other such illegal activities. There is close co-operation between the civil authorities and the Naval Service and the Air Corps in this important area. I am satisfied that the extent of Naval Service and Air Corps reconnaissance, in conjunction with the Garda and the Customs Service, has had a major and beneficial impact in deterring drug trafficking and other such illegal activities.

The Army also continues to provide aid to the civil power as the need arises. I am satisfied that the Defence Forces can meet these requirements within the overall numbers as provided for in the White Paper.

Dail Debate. Written Answers. Drug Court

138. Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on progress to date on the expansion of the drug court in the Dublin region. [9472/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): The pilot drug court programme was launched in the Dublin District Court on 9 January 2001, and the first sitting took place on 16 January 2001. Dublin’s north inner city was chosen as the location from which to operate the pilot drug court.

The pilot drug court programme marked a major policy initiative in the criminal justice system and was designed as an alternative measure for dealing with less serious and non-violent drug offenders. The project was evaluated by expert consultants at the end of the 18-month period in July 2002. They recommended that the pilot project be extended and the catchment area be widened to include the Dublin 7 area for the period of the extended pilot project to focus on the research and development activity necessary to roll out the drug court more widely, while continuing and expanding the current pilot to test and refine further the emerging model and to address difficulties which had been identified.

I welcomed the recommendations contained in the report and supported the extension of the drug court to the full Dublin 7 catchment area. That will allow time for further consideration, in consultation with the relevant Departments and agencies, of how the drug court concept should be further developed and resourced.

Dail Debate. Written Answers. Criminal Prosecutions

130. Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of times which the amendment effected by section 5 of the Criminal Justice Act 1999 has been availed of since its introduction; if he has satisfied himself with that; the plans he has to ensure greater use of the mandatory sentence; and if he has further satisfied himself that the measure has been effective in countering the activities of drug dealers. [9409/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): I am informed by the Garda Authorities that, as of 6 November 2003, the number of persons convicted under section 15(a) of the Misuse of Drugs Acts 1977 and 1984, as inserted by the Criminal Justice Act 1999, since it became law on 26 May 1999, stood at 276. Under that provision, the number of persons who had received prison sentences of ten years or more by that date stood at 12. More up to date figures on the matter have been sought from the Garda authorities and will be supplied to the Deputy as soon as they are available.

I have already indicated my concern at the low number of sentences of ten years or more imposed and am reviewing the operation of the relevant provisions. That process will be informed by the results of the study which my Department has commissioned into convictions for the new drug-trafficking offence created by the 1999 Act.

Dail Debate. Written Answers. Drug Testing Programmes

34. Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Defence the number of Defence Forces personnel tested so far under the new drug testing programme; the numbers who tested positive; the action that is taken when a member tests positive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9273/04]

Minister for Defence (Mr. M. Smith): Drug abuse has long been recognised as a serious and escalating problem in our society and while there have been relatively few instances of drug related problems within the Defence Forces, it is recognised that the Defence Forces, as a component of the wider community, mirror the community at large. The implications of drug abuse in an organisation where personnel have access to firearms are too obvious to require elaboration.

A compulsory substance testing programme was introduced on 1 February 2002, as part of a Defence Forces substance abuse programme, following a long consultative process involving the Office of the Attorney General, the Deputy Judge Advocate General and the Defence Forces representative associations.

Prior to the launch of the programme, an education programme and awareness briefings were conducted throughout the Defence Forces. All personnel were issued with a booklet devised to inform them of the purpose of the new compulsory random drug testing programme, the administrative procedures involved and the sanctions for those who test positive. All necessary measures, including pre-enlistment screening, education, compulsory random drug testing, monitoring and sanctions, will be taken to maintain a drug free environment within the Defence Forces.

The primary objective of compulsory random drugs testing is deterrence. In order to provide a credible level of deterrent, the testing programme has been devised to maximise the possibility of random selection for testing. A trained drugs-testing team is responsible for taking urine samples for compulsory random testing throughout the Defence Forces. Testing commenced on 14 November 2002 and the programme is now in its second year of operation. The target of testing 10% of the Permanent Defence Force has been achieved. A member of the Permanent Defence Force, randomly selected, may be required, at any time, to provide a urine sample which will be tested for evidence of use of controlled drugs, or the abuse or misuse of other substances, or for the detection of the metabolites thereof. A member of the PDF who refuses to provide a urine sample, or who provides a urine sample which tests positive, shall be liable to retirement, discharge or relinquishment of commission or withdrawal of cadetship as appropriate under the provisions of Defence Forces regulations.

A total of 1,611 all ranks have been tested to date. There have been five positive tests. Where personnel have confirmed positive test results, they are discharged or retired in accordance with the relevant regulations.

March 24, 2004

Irish study shows cannabis does not increase risk of premature birth

(Source:'‘Cannabis does not cause premature births’ – study' : Irish Medical News, March 22, 2004, p. 16)

A study carried out at NUI Galway has concluded that smoking cannabis while pregnant does not increase the risk of premature birth. The leader of the research team, Professor John Morrison, said ‘Slightly to our surprise, we found that cannabinoids had a very strong relaxant effect on the womb.’ He did warn, however, that there could be a link between cannabis and post-mature delivery resulting in stillbirth. He also pointed out that the team did not evaluate possible harmful effects of cannabis on the foetus. The study was prompted by epidemiological reports of high rates of premature labour among drug users. Researchers found that, in addition to a naturally-produced cannabinoid that prevents women from entering pre-term labour, there are cannabinoid receptors in the uterus that allow uptake of the active ingredients in marijuana to produce the same effect. The study was published earlier this year in the ‘American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology’ and has generated huge international interest.

Adolescent addiction rates among highest in EU

(Source:'‘Celtic Tiger’ increase in drug abuse' : Irish Medical News, March 22, 2004, p. 4,)

A Health Research Board (HRB) study, published in ‘European Addiction Research', has shown that substance abuse by adolescents increased in Dublin during the 1990s – the years of the Celtic Tiger. One-fifth of new cases presenting for treatment in Dublin were aged under 18 years and a growing minority were homeless. The age at which substance misuse commenced dropped steadily during the decade, while the time interval between first use and seeking treatment increased. In 48 per cent of cases using drug treatment services in the city the main drug of abuse was an opiate. The National Children’s Strategy has identified a need for specialist adolescent addiction services – a need further highlighted by this report

Use of sniffer dogs seen as infringement of rights

(Source:'The rise of the police sniffer dog' : The Guardian Online, 24 Mar 2004)

Drug-detection dog initiatives have increased in the UK over the past two years. Forces are using police dogs on train stations and under ‘voluntary’ schemes in pubs and clubs. The dogs and their handlers are trained to pick up the scent of drugs on individuals. According to the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), a reaction from the dog provides the officer with grounds to stop and search. This practice has not yet been challenged in a British court. The author’s view is that the use of sniffer dogs is an infringement of an individual’s rights. Apart from scientific studies proving that dogs can get it wrong, tests have shown that dogs can react to tugs on the leash note-taking and facial movements in the hope of pleasing the handler by picking up the "right" answer. Even a highly trained police dog handler will be uncertain of the smell the dog is reacting to. In New Zealand the courts found that dog sniffs constituted illegal searches and the government was forced to introduce legislation to permit them

Spraying of Colombian coca plantations has reduced cocaine production, claims US

(Source:'US claims victory in drug battle' : The Guardian Online, 24 Mar 2004)

The US office of national drug control policy said aerial spraying of drug crops in Colombia had decreased coca plantations by 21%, from 144,450 hectares (337,000 acres) in 2002 to 113,850 hectares in 2003. Critics questioned the figures, however, saying the supply of cocaine in the US appeared to have remained stable. The figures were released as the Colombian president, Alvaro Uribe, visited Washington for meetings with George Bush and other senior American officials to request an extension of a military aid programme funding drug fumigation and counter-guerrilla operations until 2009

Dail Debate. Written Answers. Prisoner Rehabilitation

134. Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has satisfied himself that there is a sufficient rehabilitative dimension to an offender’s stay in a place of detention in the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9231/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): Prisoner rehabilitation involves significant multidimensional input by a diverse range of general and specialist services provided both by the Irish Prisons Service and visiting statutory and non-statutory services. Among these services are health care, psychiatric, psychological, educational, vocational, counselling, welfare and spiritual services. These services are important in addressing offending behaviour, drug and alcohol addiction, missed educational and vocational opportunities, anger management and self management in the interest of encouraging positive personal development in prisoners and preparing them for re-integration and resettlement on release from custody.

I am satisfied that more can be done in the area of prisoner rehabilitation and my particular concerns in this regard are to remove two major constraining factors. First, I am determined to restructure prison costs and prison officer working arrangements, not only in the interest of greater efficiency, but also to ensure that more resources - staff and finance - are available to support prisoner rehabilitation programmes. This is currently the focus of ongoing negotiations with the Prison Officers’ Association under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. Second, I am pursuing the replacement of outdated and inadequate accommodation at several of our older prisons such as Mountjoy, Cork, Limerick and Portlaoise so as to provide decent living conditions for prisoners and modern, well equipped facilities for both staff and prisoners engaged in prisoner care and rehabilitation programmes. The focus here is more long-term but I expect to be in a position to announce significant progress in the near future.

March 23, 2004

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Garda Deployment

465. Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí specifically assigned to anti-drug measures in the Cabra area of K district, Dublin 7; the number of gardaí in the drug unit covering the entire K district; the areas and the population covered by this unit; the Garda’s views on whether the drug problem is on the increase in this area; if additional Garda resources might be assigned to it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8309/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): I am informed by the Garda authorities that the K district drug unit covers the Cabra, Finglas and Blanchardstown areas and that the current personnel strength of the K district drug unit is nine, all ranks. I am further informed that the current personnel strength, all ranks, of Cabra Garda station as at 22 March 2004 is 65.

The approximate population of the K district is as follows:
Station: Population
Blanchardstown: 80,000
Finglas: 20,000
Cabra: 20,000

Garda management in the K district state that there is no apparent increase in the drug problem in the area and are satisfied that the current strength of the K district drug unit is adequate to address the drugs issues there.

All gardaí have a responsibility, inter alia, to deal with drug related matters as they arise. I am assured by the Garda authorities that the situation will be kept under review and when additional personnel next become available the needs of Cabra Garda station will be fully considered within the overall context of the needs of Garda stations throughout the country.

468. Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the massive amounts of cocaine available in the Cabra and Phibsborough areas of Dublin; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that there are only six drugs officers assigned to the whole K district, which covers Finglas, Cabra and Blanchardstown; and if, in the context of the Government’s pledge to provide 2,000 extra gardaí, extra resources and personnel will be allocated to tackle the rising drugs problem in these areas. [8371/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): I am informed by the Garda authorities that there is no apparent recent increase in availability of cocaine in the areas covered by the K district nor is there evidence to suggest that there are massive amounts of cocaine available in those areas. Garda management in the K district is satisfied that the current strength of the K district drug unit is adequate to address the drug issues there. The strength of the unit is kept under constant review. Other operational gardaí, both uniformed and plain clothes, in the K district are also active in fighting drug misuse.

The current personnel strength of the K district as at 22 March 2004 is 267, all ranks. The current personnel strength of the K district drug unit is nine, all ranks.

I am assured by the Garda authorities that the situation will be kept under review and when additional personnel next become available the needs of K district will be fully considered within the overall context of the needs of Garda districts throughout the country.

Fundraising campaign for new children's centre

(Source:'Campaign aims to give children at risk a €3m helping hand' : Irish Examiner, p. 9, 23 Mar 2004)

A campaign was launched yesterday to raise €3 million to build a modern residential facility for children at risk from poverty and drug abuse. The Children’s Cottage House in Dun Laoghaire, which had served as an emergency centre for such children for over 100 years, was partly shut down last December when an inspector’s report found its standards below par. The campaign, named ‘Kids deserve to be Kids’ wants to provide an emergency residential facility with intervention services, therapeutic and remedial services, and support units for parents and children. One of the campaign’s patrons is Aer Lingus Chairman, Tom Mulcahy.

March 22, 2004

Gardai predict increase in gun violence

(Source:'It’s gunner get worse' : The Sun, p. 24, 22 Mar 2004)

Gardai at the ballistics section are predicting that the recent spate of gun crime will increase in Ireland, but insist they have the resources to track down those responsible. Detective Eugene Gilligan said: “We have a serious drug problem in this country and nine out of ten killings in these cases now involve drugs or money. And it’s going to get worse”. Detective Gilligan outlined the Gardai procedure for analysing evidence from gun crime, firstly by examining the ammunition under microscope to look for unique markings left when the gun was fired. “I also go through records to see if it has been used before I can link it to a particular case and that gives us leads into the particular group involved”, he added

EURAD call for pregnant women to be tested for drugs

(Source:'Pregnant women ‘should be tested for drug-taking’ ' : Irish Examiner, p. 3, 22 Mar 2004)

Gráinne Kenny, international president of Europe Against Drugs (EURAD), has suggested that all pregnant women be tested for drugs. “All pregnant women should have their urine tested for drugs. If a mother is found to have cannabis in her system, social services should be informed as she is endangering her unborn child- an innocent bystander with a right to life”, she said. She made her comments in response to research carried out by Galway doctors which showed that women who smoke marijuana could be more likely to have a prolonged pregnancy. The results were published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. John Morrison, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at NUI Galway had expected that cannabis might cause premature deliveries. “Slightly to our surprise, we found that cannabinoids had a very strong relaxant effect on the womb. There has been a lot of epidemiological reports suggesting higher rates of premature labour among drug users. We found the two main types of cannabis receptor were present in the uterus but it turned out that they relax the womb during pregnancy”, he said. “This turns the previous hypothesis on its head because it showed cannabinoids might have a role in prolonging pregnancy rather than shortening it”, he added. Dr Morrison said that cannabis might be linked to “post-mature” or late deliveries, resulting in still-birth.

March 20, 2004

Trim councillor calls for Garda resignation over increased crime

(Source:'Trim concern over ‘drugs, prostitution and extortion’' : Weekender, p. 7, 20 Mar 2004)

Trim councillor Jimmy Peppard called for superintendent John McKeown to consider his position as his Gardai “were failing in their duties to protect the public and detect crime”. Councillor Peppard claimed that the Gardai had failed to deal with “the growing problems of prostitution, extortion and drugs” on two of Trim’s local authority housing estates. Supt McKeown responded to these claims by stressing the changes in policing over the last few years. “The days when towns have large number of Gardai are gone. Personnel now work on international and national units dealing with serious crimes, criminal assets and drugs and if I am made aware of these activities are taking place, I can employ people to investigate them”, he said

Chocolate trafficking ruse foiled by Gardai

(Source:'With Ferrero, gardai really foiling drugs deception' : Irish Examiner, p. 3, 20 Mar 2004)

Gardai foiled an elaborate plan to import cocaine into Ireland using chocolate wrappers. Almost €50,000 worth of cocaine was wrapped in gold foil to resemble Ferrero Rocher chocolates. Gardai, acting on a tip-off, were altered to the existence of two boxes of ‘chocolates’, which were sent from Brazil to Germany, then to Dublin and finally to Lower Glanmire Road in Cork. Nigerian national Matthew Ilo, aged 30, was seen to visit the flat where the drugs were delivered and was arrested as he walked away with the package. He was sentenced to eight years in prison.

March 19, 2004

Minister Martin rules out cannabis law change

(Source:'Cannabis: no law change' : Irish Medical Times, p. 14, 19 Mar 2004)

Minister Michael Martin ruled out any change in law in regard to cannabis in response to the reclassification of the drug in the UK. The Minister was responding to a question from Dr Dan Boyle, a GP in Cork South Central, and added that in Irish legislation that there was a distinction between possession for personal use and for sale or supply. He also added that even allowing for the recent reclassification in the UK the equivalent penalties there continued to be higher than those in force in the Republic

EMCDDA warns of pending hepatitis epidemic

Source:'Warning that hepatitis C epidemic could cost countries many billions' : Irish Medical Times, p. 18, 19 Mar 2004

The European Monitoring Centre for Drug and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has warned of a potential hepatitis C epidemic that could cost Europe billions. More than one million people are infected with hepatitis C in Europe according to the organisation, with intravenous drug use the main vector for transfer of the disease. Between 6 and 90 per cent of all new cases are attributed to drug use. Those that pick up the virus can carry and transmit the disease for years without showing any symptoms. According to the EMCDDA, measure need to be taken now instead of waiting for the inevitable outcome: “It is better to introduce screening and preventative methods now that to wait until the infected are chronically ill”.

March 18, 2004

INCB warning over efforts to tackle Afghan opium production

Source:'Drug agencies braced for heroin tidal wave' : Northside People East, p. 14 18 Mar 2004)
The UN International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has said that measures to cutback Afghan opium production have failed and sparked fears that a bumper crop of heroin will lead to a tidal wave of the drug on the streets of Dublin. “The board is seriously concerned that widespread cultivation of opium poppy continues to take place in Afghanistan despite an eradication campaign carried out by the Government and enactment of two decrees prohibiting cultivation of opium poppy and related activities”, said the INCB’s annual report. The report continued: “As a result of two years of bumper crops of opium poppy in Afghanistan, it is expected that heroin trafficking along the Balkan route and through Eastern Europe will continue to increase. This may lead to the reversal of the declining trends in the abuse of heroin in Western Europe”.

Former junior minister with responsibility for drugs Eoin Ryan met with the Afghan ambassador to the EU to express Ireland’s concern over the situation as 90% of the heroin that reaches Ireland originates in Afghanistan. “The ultimate key to tackling the scourge of heroin is to ensure that communities both in Afghanistan and in Dublin’s inner city have the support to create a better future for themselves and their families. Otherwise farmers in Afghanistan will continue to sow opium and we in the west will harvest the misery”, said Mr Ryan.

Funding approved for Tallaght projects to prevent drug use

Source:'Govt funds boost local youth facilities' : Echo- Tallaght, p. 6, 18 Mar 2004

Minister of State Noel Ahern announced that youth projects in Tallaght would receive €800,000 million as part of the Young Persons Facilities and Services Fund (YPFSF). The total funding nationally amounts to €13 million. The projects in Tallaght include €460,000 to construct a youth centre at Brookfield Youth and €80,000 to complete an all-weather pitch at Jobstown. Minister Ahern said: “The funding I am approving today builds on- and adds value to – the excellent work being done through the YPFSF to date and means that over €72 million has now been allocated to facilities and services for at risk young people over the last five years. It is vital that we continue to invest in facilities and services in areas worst affected by drugs if we are to stop the flow of another young generation of young people into life of addiction”. The YPFSF was established in 1998 in an effort to tackle drug misuse among the young by funding projects that will divert at risk young people away from drug misuse.

March 17, 2004

East Coast regional Drugs Task Force chair nominated

Source:'Trade union leader to head drugs task force' : Medicine Weekly, p. 14, 17 Mar 2004

The former Wicklow County secretary of SIPTU, Mr John O’Brien has been nominated as the chairperson of the East Coast regional Drugs Task Force. Mr O’Brien said: “Drugs are a community problem and the solutions must come from the community. The Regional Task Force comprising representatives of Government departments, State agencies, local voluntary and community bodies is the ideal basis to address this issue”. The Task Force he will chair operates in South Co. Dublin and Co. Wicklow and is responsible for co-ordinating a response to the drugs problem in the region and updating information on the nature and extent of drug use in the area.

Home drug-testing kits to go on general release in UK

(Source:'Parent's DIY kit to drug test their kids' : The Sun, p. 24, 17 Mar 2004)

Hunter Diagnostics, the Irish company who have developed a home drug-testing kit are negotiating a distribution deal with a chain of British pharmacists in order to release the kits in the UK. The testers are 97% accurate, with the standard kit testing for six drugs, with a more advanced kit testing for ten. The marketing manager of Hunter Diagnostics, John Muller, fells the kits will not affect parent-child relationships: "Youngsters welcome the kits because if helps them refuse drugs by simply saying they are tested and would be caught out", he said. Jan Betts, who's daughter Leah died in 1995 after taking ecstasy, was not so sure. "Some children will give samples willingly, but others will accuse mums and dads of not trusting them".

Mandatory sentencing for dealers not being enforced

(Source:'Get tough on drugs' : The Sun, p. 19, 17 Mar 2004)

Independent TD Tony Gregory called on judges to enforce the mandatory sentence of 10 years on drug dealers. Mr Gregory was speaking after John Paul Duff was sentenced to seven years despite being found with €150,000 worth of ecstasy, amphetamine and cocaine. Mr Gregory pointed out that out of a total of 278 people arrested for drug dealing only twelve received the full ten-year sentence. According to the national secretary of the Coalition of Communities Against Drugs Kieran Perry: "this is no deterrent at all. A clear message is being sent out that drug dealing is not viewed seriously in Irish Courtrooms". Under Irish law anyone convicted of possessing drugs worth more than €12,700 should be jailed for at least 10 years, with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

March 16, 2004

SHB expands alcohol and drugs training scheme for pub staff

(Source:'Pub training scheme on drug and alcohol abuse may be extended' : Irish Times, p. 2. 16 Mar 2004)

A new training project designed to help club and pub staff identify and deal with the negative effects of alcohol or drugs is to be expanded to the whole of Cork and Kerry after the completion of a pilot scheme in Cork city. The programme, funded by the Cork Local Drugs Task Force, is the first of its kind in Ireland and was developed by the Southern Health Board, publicans and local Gardai.

More than 50 people took part in the two half-day sessions where training was provided by emergency medical technicians offering first aid and basic life support training and CPR. Security personnel were told about effective conflict resolution negotiation and understanding cultural differences. Sharon McGillacuddy, SHB health promotion officer, co-ordinator of the course said, "Feedback has been very positive with participants and trainers enjoying the interactive and practical nature of the course."

Scotts & Reardons pub owner Paul Montgomery said: "This training programme gives our staff a chance to acquire or up- grade skills to help them deal with difficult situations professionally and swiftly."

Government's new partnership approach to tackling alcohol problems in England

(Source:'Government's new partnership approach to tackling alcohol problems in England' : Cabinet Office, UK Government. 16 Mar 2004)

The Government today unveils plans to forge new partnerships with the health and police services, the drinks industry, and communities, to combat the range of problems caused by alcohol misuse in England.

The "Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy for England", which is published today by the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit, puts joint action at the heart of a series of measures which will:

*tackle alcohol-related disorder in town and city centres;
*improve treatment and support for people with alcohol problems;
*clamp down on irresponsible promotions by the industry; and
*provide better information to consumers about the dangers of alcohol misuse.

Strategy Unit analysis showed that while most people drink without causing problems for themselves or for others, alcohol misuse is costing around £20 billion a year through crime and disorder, injuries and illness, and lost productivity in the workplace.

The new cross-Government approach seeks to create partnerships at local and national levels, which can address existing problems but are also flexible enough to adapt to changing needs. Press Release
Download Report

March 14, 2004

Schools test pupils for drugs

(Source:'Schoolkids are tested for drugs' : News of the World, p. 15, 14 Mar 2004)

Drug testing of school pupils is now been used in twelve schools in Ireland according to the manufacturers, Hunter Diagnostics. The spokesman for the company, Damien Young, said: “Twelve private schools have decided to team up with parents to carry out random drug-testing. Drugs are everywhere and our kits made it easy for parents to detect the problem early. I think every school should have the option to run drug-testing, provided it meets the agreement of parents and their board of management”. A spokesperson for the Department of Education and Science said: “The government has no plans to issue a directive to make schools bring in drug testing. We believe education is the key to generate awareness about the dangers”.

March 12, 2004

€13 fund to prevent drug use amongst young people

(Source:'New €13m fund aims to target young people at risk from drugs.' : Irish Times, p 3 12 Mar 2004)

Mr Noel Ahern, Minister of State for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs has announced that more than €13m has been allocated for programmes aimed at preventing young people starting to use drugs. The money will be divided between youth and community centres in Cabra, Finglas, Donnycarney, Darndale, Clondalkin and Tallaght. The funding has been made under the Young Persons Facilities and Services Fund. Mr Ahern said: "It is vital we continue to invest in facilities and services in areas worst affected by drugs if we are to stop the flow of another generation of young people into a life of addiction."

March 11, 2004

Minister announces €13m allocation for anti-drug scheme

Junior Minister Noel Ahern has announced a €13m funding allocation for a Government scheme designed to keep children away from drugs.

The money will be allocated to the Young Persons' Facilities and Services Fund, which was established in 1998 as part of the Government’s strategy for tackling drug abuse.

The scheme aims to attract young people from disadvantaged areas into facilities, programmes and activities that will divert them away from the drugs scene. Source:
Press Release

Dail Debates. Adjournment Debate. Crime Levels

Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Last year, 17 shootings were recorded by the Garda in Dublin South-Central, even though there were more. So far this year, there have been eight more murders and it is now just March. There were three murders by gun attack last year and already this year there have been four murders, all in the space of a month. The majority of these incidents have been drugs gang related, yet so far only one person has been brought before the courts.

While the Minister’s attention has been focused on his war on the rights-based society, immigrants, republicans and the Good Friday Agreement, I am sure the Minister of State will agree that this is an absolutely unacceptable situation. The people of Dublin South-Central deserve better. They deserve the same level of protection and response they would enjoy if they lived in, say, Dublin South-East or Ranelagh.

While this is all happening around us and the people of Dublin South-Central are under virtual siege, the Minister has spent the last number of weeks and months launching unsubstantiated, unfounded and reckless attacks on my party. He has spent an inordinate amount of time in the media and on the airwaves declaring his distaste for my party, yet he does not appear to have given a second thought to the decent people in the communities I represent. It is time the Minister got off his high horse, came down from his ivory tower and addressed the issues that concern the ordinary citizens of this State, and not the mythical republican phantoms he has been chasing around Dublin docklands.

Real crime is being committed each day across the city. Real people are being affected by it. Real lives are being lost and real damage is being done to our communities. What has been the Minister’s response? In reply to a question on Tuesday on the matter, he stated the Garda management has adequate resources to investigate these murders. I do not doubt that, but the question is whether they have the resources necessary to prevent them, respond to the incidents and provide security for citizens. In my area they do not.

In Ballyfermot where the latest murder occurred on Sunday evening, there is just one Garda patrol car available at night according to the gardaí on the beat, not the 11 cars to which the Minister referred in reply to a recent parliamentary question. Ballyfermot Garda station was downgraded two years ago, therefore Clondalkin gets first call on resources and personnel. If the 400 or so special branch officers, or the 600 gardaí on traffic duty, were reassigned to working-class communities to tackle drugs crime, a message would go out that the Government was serious about tackling crime in this State. However, the reality is very different.

The reality is that the Government appears to be more interested in horses and greyhounds than it is in people. The latest budget indicated that the Government gave as much to the horse and greyhound racing fund as it did to all the drugs task forces dotted across the State.

A former Garda Commissioner stated that more than 75% of crime in the city is drugs related. The Garda would know because too often it seems a blind eye is being turned at some of the activities of these criminals because they are Garda informers. They are allowed to ply their poisonous trade openly on the streets and now it appears they can murder at will. The Minister’s job is to tackle this scandal, tackle the increase in shootings and tackle inequality, poverty and disadvantage, the underlying conditions that give rise to much of the crime and drug abuse that plague my area.

If there were three drugs related murders in his constituency in a month it would make national headlines for days, if not weeks, and the appropriate response to the problem would be forthcoming immediately. The citizens of Ballyfermot, Crumlin or the south inner city are just as deserving of action to tackle the scourge of drugs and the related regular shootings and murders. I am not calling for a Limerick-type response, with the ERU patrolling the streets of Dublin South-Central. I am seeking that drugs crime in this State and city, and in Dublin South-Central in particular, should be taken seriously and given priority by the Government. It should begin to address seriously the problem in a multi-faceted and multi-agency way. It should provide the resources and urgent attention the problem deserves and consider the possible establishment of a task force to take on this task.

Last week the local community policing forum met. They discussed whether to suspend themselves indefinitely because they cannot get resources from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to pay for stationery and normal office requirements. They asked for a co-ordinator for each division, which was refused, and then for a co-ordinator for all three, which was also refused. They cannot get a penny from the State to try to tackle some of the issues the Minister and the Garda should be tackling. This is not good enough.

The Minister must take seriously drugs crime in this city and State. This is not happening because resources are not being made available from within the Garda budget. Unless the matter is dealt with, the problem will continue to worsen.

Mr. Callely: I thank Deputy Ó Snodaigh for raising this important issue and giving me the opportunity, on behalf of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, to update the House on the matter raised.

There have been four murders in the Dublin South-Central division since 1 January this year. There has been a detection in respect of one of these and a person is before the courts. In another case a file is being prepared for the direction of the law officers and investigations are ongoing in respect of the other two murders committed, one of which occurred as recently as last weekend.

With regard to a number of these incidents, the media have used terms such as “gangland murders” and “drugs-related” killings. The Deputy will appreciate that I do not wish to say anything that could jeopardise the proper investigation of any particular incident by ascribing a particular motive to it. Whether these terms are appropriate, I can assure the House that the Garda Síochána subject all murders and violent crimes to detailed investigations. There is no question of the Garda treating some murders with less seriousness than others because some victims are believed to have been involved in crime.

There seems to be an increasing tendency where some of these crimes are reported to assume, simply because the victim may have had some involvement in criminal activity, that these murders are what would be regarded as organised or gangland crime. While I do not want to comment on any particular case, I will say that that approach can be very misleading. The motives for particular offences can vary substantially and, in some cases, may not be related to a person’s involvement or otherwise in crime.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has met the Garda Commissioner and other senior Garda personnel a number of times to discuss crimes which might be put in the category of gangland or organised crime. He is satisfied that the necessary resources, both operational and financial, are being directed towards the containment and detection of such crimes. The Minister has been assured by the Garda authorities that the resources at the disposal of local Garda management to investigate these murders are adequate. It is not considered necessary to set up a taskforce in the Dublin South-Central division.

The Garda authorities have established an operation under the direction of a detective garda superintendent who has initiated a number of different Garda operations specifically aimed at targeting organised criminal gangs in the Dublin metropolitan region. This operational unit is liaising closely with other specialised Garda units and detectives throughout Dublin. The operation is ongoing and has resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of persons and associates connected with these gangs. The Garda authorities have also assured the Minister that the targeting of these criminal gangs is continuing. No doubt, the Deputy will join with me in condemning all those who perpetrate or are beneficiaries of organised crime.

The establishment of specialist Garda units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation and the Garda national drug unit, operating under an Assistant Commissioner in charge of national support services, has enabled the Garda Síochána to tackle organised crime effectively. Other smaller units, including the money laundering investigation unit and a unit dealing with the theft of computer components, have also had successes in combating the activities of organised criminals.

I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the Garda Commissioner, the Deputy Garda Commissioner, his management team and each member of the force for the tremendous work they carry out. Sometimes they take huge personal risks in ensuring that our State remains properly policed. However, the difficulties faced by the Garda in successfully investigating such crimes should not be underestimated. Organised crime, by its very nature, creates a climate of fear, not only for the general public but also for the criminals themselves. There are potentially huge profits involved in organised crime, particularly the evil drugs trade. To these criminals money is power and many are prepared to take whatever action is necessary to protect their positions, including violence and murder in some cases.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has spoken to the Garda Commissioner about this category of crime. He has been informed that the necessary resources have been directed to it and that a continued, proactive and integrated approach is taken by the Garda to the investigation of cases where there is a suspicion of involvement of organised criminals. The Garda Commissioner has assured the Minister that no effort will be spared to solve such crimes and bring those involved to justice.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh made the regrettable remark that the Minister does not care. The Minister has taken a strong position on a number of issues and shown his mettle. Whatever Deputy Ó Snodaigh feels about attacks on his party, that matter should be taken up with the Minister. I have no doubt the Minister would not have made those comments unless he had satisfactory and sufficient evidence available to him via intelligence.

Every murder, whether it is connected with organised crime or not, is fully investigated by the Garda Síochána and, thankfully, it has a considerable track record in this regard.

March 10, 2004

Irish drinking levels at double EU average

(Source:'Irish regular drinkers double EU average' : Irish Times 10 Mar 2004)

52 per cent of Irish people drink regularly, double the EU average according to new figures published yesterday.
25 per cent of EU citizens regularly drink alcohol, ranging from 6 per cent of women and 19 per cent of men in Italy to 40 per cent of women and 64 per cent of men in Ireland. Ireland has the highest percentage of regular drinkers in all but the 55-64 age group. In the 24-34 age group 66 per cent of Irish people are regular drinkers compared to 10 per cent in Italy, 20 per cent in Austria and 45 per cent in the UK.

In the over-65s, Ireland is once again on top. In this age group 37 per cent of the Irish regularly drink compared to just 7 per cent of the Spanish.

The statistics reported here relate to the year 1999 and are contained in the report Health Statistics, Key Data on Health 2002 published by Eurostat. The report does not provide a definition of regular drinking.

Ireland's attitude to drink is immature

(Source:'Sober-up call is timely alert over drinking habits' : Irish Independent, p. 14, 10 Mar 2004)

Recent Eurostat figures put Ireland at the top of the European drinking league table. The attitude to drinking in Ireland and in other Northern European cultures is very different from that in Mediterranean countries. Various reports have addressed the problem of immature drinking and offered analysis of what can be done to reduce the harm caused. A key report is that of the Strategic Task Force on Alcohol, published in May 2002. This report found that some strategies that look good on paper are ineffective, including anti-drinking publicity campaigns. According to the report ‘ the research literature strongly supports the effectiveness of well-enforced minimum drinking ages in holding down harm to teenagers. It also points to the effectiveness of enforcement of alcohol control laws and holding servers liable to damages when they serve an already intoxicated patron. The politics of vested interests in the alcohol industry in Ireland make it difficult to manage the problem. Despite the fact that alcohol is our biggest drug problem, there is no Cabinet sub-committee on alcohol misuse as there is on drugs.

Trials of drug show effect in obesity and smoking cessation

(Source:'Popping just one of these pills you’ll cure two ills' : Irish Independent, p. 28, 10 Mar 2004)

A drug compound called Rimonabant, manufactured by a French company, has been shown to speed weight loss in overweight patients and double the number of people who succeed in stopping smoking, while preventing subsequent weight gain. Rimonabant is involved in seven trials of more than 13,000 round the world. The drug works by blocking cannabis receptors in the brain and was discovered after researchers investigated why cannabis smokers developed ‘the munchies’. The first results have been welcomed by experts at University College London

March 09, 2004

Health statistics: Key data on health 2002

Health statistics: Key data on health 2002
Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2002
ISBN 92-894-3730-8. Press Release Full Text

Dail Debates. Priority Questions. National Drugs Strategy

105. Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when he expects to see the publication of the first annual report of the national drugs strategy considering it has been in existence for almost three years; the reason this report did not meet its deadline for publication by the end of 2003 as promised in his Department’s strategy statement for 2003-05; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7642/04]

Mr. N. Ahern: The Department has responsibility for co-ordinating the implementation of the national drugs strategy 2001- 08 and is preparing a report which will cover the first three years of the strategy. This comprehensive report will present an overview of progress made to the end of 2003 and will address issues such as progress in the implementation of the 100 actions contained in the strategy, the structures involved in delivering the strategy and the nature and extent of drug misuse in Ireland. It will also include the latest available statistics on treatment, seizures and data from relevant surveys and research undertaken in the period.

Delays were experienced in obtaining up-to-date statistical information from a number of sources which has delayed the overall preparation of a report. I am anxious that it be published as quickly as possible. I have asked the Department to expedite this matter and I hope it will be published in the next three months.

The Deputy may wish to note that updates on the drugs strategy, the local drugs task forces and the young people’s facilities and services fund are included in the annual report of the Department. In addition, the national advisory committee on drugs recently produced a comprehensive progress report covering its work from July 2000 to July 2003 which has been widely circulated.

Since the national drugs strategy was launched in May 2001, considerable progress has been made by Departments and agencies in implementing the actions set out in the strategy. The interdepartmental group on drugs, which I chair, meets regularly to assess progress by Departments and agencies in achieving their set targets and obstacles to the implementation of any of the actions are brought to light at these meetings. Approximately one third of the 100 actions have been completed or are ongoing for the life of the strategy. With the exception of a few actions where work has yet to commence, work is in progress on the remainder.

As the Minister with responsibility for the co-ordination of the national drugs strategy, I present a six-monthly progress report on the implementation of the strategy to the Cabinet committee on social inclusion which reviews performance against targets set.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

The critical implementation path is in the final stages of publication and will be ready for broad dissemination in the next few days. The critical implementation path is a step-by-step plan showing how Departments and agencies are fulfilling, and intend to fulfil, their commitments and actions under the strategy. It also lays out the path to be taken for each Department and agency to meet their objectives.

Mr. O’Dowd: I thank the Minister of State for his reply. However, one of the main reasons for this delay has been the considerable length of time spent in setting up the regional drugs task forces. I am unhappy that it has taken so long to get a report. The nature of the drug problem is changing with the increasing use of cocaine as opposed to heroin. How is the Minister of State addressing this matter? The increase in cocaine use is of increasing concern to people.

Mr. N. Ahern: All ten regional drugs task forces have been operating for some months. They are assessing problems in their relevant areas and identifying gaps in the strategy. The regional drugs task forces are now reporting back. We accept that drug use is no longer just a Dublin-wide problem. The heroin problem was mainly Dublin based but there were still 2,000 users outside the Eastern Regional Health Authority region. I agree that drug use is changing. The heroin problem is not exactly under control but there are 7,000 people in treatment for heroin use. However, I agree that the strategy must always be adjusted as new drugs and problems come on the scene. There will be a mid-term evaluation of the strategy later this year. This will give us the opportunity to see whether the strategy is still relevant, needs serious alteration or is flexible enough to tackle new problems, such as cocaine use, which are arising.

Cecilia Keaveney: A report released yesterday showed Irish people under 30 years spend an average of 9% of their income on alcohol compared to the next high spenders, the Swedes, at 1.9%. Irish people spend almost 4% of the their weekly household income on alcohol compared to 0.2% of the rest of the EU. Will the Minister of State accept that alcohol is the largest drug used in Ireland? Its use has repercussions in terms of street violence, property damage, family discord and links to suicide.

Will the Minister of State agree to the incorporation of alcohol use in the national drugs strategy at its mid-term review? The drugs issue has changed and alcohol has come more to the fore. Statistics show that alcohol is consumed by all age groups. The only age group in this report shown to be at the EU average is the 55 to 64 year age group. However, of the over 65 year bracket, 62% drink regularly compared to an average 28% in the rest of Europe.

Mr. Crawford: Who opens more pubs in the country?

Cecilia Keaveney: It is not I.

Mr. Crawford: The Taoiseach.

Mr. N. Ahern: When the local drugs task forces were originally set up, they were concentrated in 14 of the most disadvantaged areas where heroin was the big issue. Seven years ago in Dublin if it was suggested to a local drugs task force to take responsibility for alcohol, there would have been an expression of shock-horror as it would have been felt the Government was downplaying the importance of heroin use. However, things have changed. With regard to the regional drugs task forces, some argue that the biggest problem outside Dublin is alcohol use and not drugs.

The national drugs strategy covers illegal drugs. There is a separate strategy for alcohol, which is under the control of the Minister for Health and Children. When I speak of the four pillars of the national drugs strategy, there is an overlap with prevention of drug and alcohol misuse. When one speaks to school children on prevention, these two issues overlap. However, they are covered by two different strategies. The alcohol strategy also differs from the national drugs strategy because alcohol affects different age groups and classes in society. The national drugs strategy is aimed at disadvantaged areas and people in particular age groups. Perhaps in time, the two strategies will come together. Currently, they overlap in terms of prevention.

Mr. O’Shea: I recall in the mid-1990s, in Amsterdam for example, heroin addicts were looked on as losers. They were seen as a product of the 1960s when film stars and others were into this drug. One pattern that emerged in Amsterdam at the time was people getting their trips on more readily available proprietary drugs. Is there a significant increase in the use of proprietary drugs instead of heroin? Anecdotal stories about cocaine use would lead us to believe that there is a significant supply of cocaine throughout the State. How bad is the spread of cocaine use?

4 o’clock

Mr. N. Ahern: It is true that in some disadvantaged areas, heroin is sometimes perceived as a loser’s drug. Last year’s survey showed that there were fewer people in the 15 to 24 year old bracket using heroin in Dublin. Sadly, they are probably not out playing football and have probably moved on to other drugs, but fewer young people in Dublin are moving on to heroin. There is a great deal of poly-drug use, in which people use anything and everything, legal or illegal, such as alcohol and a mix of whatever is available. The days in which people used and abused one drug have gone, and a certain section of society is using whatever is going, so some proprietary drugs and drugs that are dispensed by chemists are also being used.

The overall national population survey was carried out last year, and I remember from one aspect of the results was that major misuse of illegal drugs occurred among men when they were in their 20s. As they got older, they did not use illegal drugs to the same extent and probably used legal drugs such as alcohol. Women went almost the other way. The use of illegal drugs by women in their 20s was much lower than that by men in their 20s, but the use of legal drugs, namely, valium and such benzodiazepines, was extremely high among women as they got into their 40s, 50s or 60s. That does not come under my strategy, but there is no doubt that poly-drug use is a major issue, with people playing with and dabbling in whatever is available.

106. Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the total estimated number of heroin abusers at the latest date for which figures are available, in Dublin and the rest of the country for each of the past five years; the steps being taken to counter such extensive heroin use, especially in the context of the implementation of the national drugs strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7700/04]

Mr. N. Ahern: Question 106 touches on some of the issues with which we were just dealing. In May 2003, a study was published by the national advisory committee on drugs, which estimated that there are 14,452 opiate users in Ireland. This estimate was based on statistics provided by three data sources for 2001: the central drug treatment list, Garda data and the hospital in-patient data. This was the first formal estimate of the number of opiate users undertaken since 1996. However, it should be noted that the 1996 study, which arrived at an estimate of less than 13,500, estimated prevalence for Dublin only. The latest study estimates that there are 12,456 opiate users in Dublin, with a further 2,225 users outside the capital. The Deputy should note that the figures for Dublin and outside Dublin do not add up to the national figures as there are statistical inaccuracies in them.

I am sure the Deputy will agree that the drop in prevalence figures in Dublin is encouraging. Equally encouraging is the finding that the numbers of users in the 15 to 24 year old bracket has reduced substantially, which may point to a lower rate of initiation into heroin misuse. In this context, the Deputy should note that, since 1996, the availability of treatment for opiate dependence has increased significantly and this may be a factor in explaining the latest estimates. For example, in 1996, 1,350 places were available on the central methadone treatment list, whereas currently there are approximately 6,900, which is ahead of the figure that we have in the strategy.

While many of the study’s findings are encouraging, I strongly believe that we cannot afford any degree of complacency. The Government is committed to working in partnership with communities most affected by drug misuse, and the continued implementation of the 100 actions set out in the national drug strategy remains a priority. In broad terms, the strategy seeks to increase the seizures of heroin and other drugs and to expand the availability of prevention, treatment and rehabilitation programmes while also conducting more focused initiatives through the task forces and the young people’s facilities and services fund in areas where drug use, especially heroin, is most prevalent.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

The strategy provides for an independent evaluation of the effectiveness of the overall framework by the end of 2004. This will examine the progress being made in achieving the overall key strategic goals set out in the strategy and will enable priorities for further action to be identified and a re-focusing of the strategy, if necessary.

Mr. O’Shea: I agree with the Minister of State that it is encouraging that there seems to be a fall-off in the use of heroin in Dublin but, unfortunately, heroin use has spread to other areas. The Minister of State rightly says that we cannot be complacent about that in any way. I recall from the rehabilitation services in Amsterdam that heroin addicts reached a point at which they no longer got the buzz from heroin. That point allowed a window in which to effect rehabilitation. Otherwise the addicts would find alcohol as substitute which meant that there was no progress. That ties into what Deputy Keaveney talked about.

The Minister of State does not seem to have figures for cocaine or crack cocaine. The problem with cocaine, as he knows, is that the trip does not last as long as it does with heroin. That means that the need to acquire the money to feed a habit will lead to the development a higher level of crime.

I assume that the Minister of State does not have any figures on the development of the use of proprietary drugs. The fact that heroin use in Dublin is declining is welcome, but I imagine that the Minister of State is concerned, as I am, that some substitute for heroin might be lining up for addicts to use and that the fact is not that the drug-abusing fraternity is diminishing, but its preferences are changing.

Mr. N. Ahern: Yes. Cocaine use is increasing, although as the national population survey shows, the figures are quite low. The survey showed that 3.1% of the population had used cocaine, 1.1% had used it in the past 12 months, and 0.3% had used it in the past month. Compared with similar surveys undertaken in other European countries, these figures suggest that cocaine use in Ireland is roughly average, or perhaps slightly above average. It appears that cocaine use is a growing problem. These are the national figures including all age groups, but they would include more younger people.

Those who misuse heroin come to notice quite quickly because it is injected and the problem is more in your face. The problem is that, although there is a treatment for heroin users, namely, methadone, which we have encouraged over a number of years, there is no equivalent of methadone for cocaine. Cocaine has serious effects on the user’s memory and mental state, but it is a much longer-term problem which does not manifest itself as quickly as heroin use would. The illness problems do not arise as quickly, so users may be seriously affected without indication. There is no substitute treatment; all that we have is counselling and behavioural therapy. Cocaine users are much slower to come forward for treatment because we cannot give them a substitute and they do not recognise that they have a problem, which is itself probably part of the problem.

We must monitor cocaine use. We are upskilling some of our staff in the Eastern Regional Health Authority. There is a special clinic within the city clinic to deal with people who come forward, but the problem is getting them to come forward. We must adapt the strategy, our staff and our expertise as the problem evolves.

Mr. O’Dowd: Is it not the case that, in every second level school in which there are children aged over 15, at least one person in each class, which should have at least 30 students, has taken cocaine, that the incidence is one in 20 and that the age cohort in which cocaine is most used is the 15 to 24 age group? It is not acceptable for the Minister of State to say that there is a low level of uptake of treatment when he does nothing about it and has no strategy to deal with cocaine abuse. The problem will get much worse and, if the Minister of State does not deal with it, it will be much worse than the alcohol problem. Does cocaine mixed with alcohol not result in the fiercest and most violent assaults in our country? Is the Minister of State not too complacent about the issue and does he not have any real plans or finance to deal with it?

Mr. N. Ahern: I hope that the figure of one in 20 of our schoolchildren having used cocaine is not correct.

Mr. O’Dowd: It is a fact. It is a fact in that age cohort.

Mr. N. Ahern: Different types of surveys exist. The national advisory committee on drugs did an extremely detailed nationwide survey, which involved in-depth interviews, lasting 30 to 40 minutes, in people’s homes. Those are the figures on which we are going.

Other surveys have been done, including the Slán survey, which is done in a classroom setting with people handing out and filling in forms.

Mr. O’Dowd: The Minister of State is not familiar with his brief. He has it wrong.

Mr. N. Ahern: We do not want to ignore any survey but I believe more in the surveys that are done in people’s homes than in those done in a peer group setting, in which everybody is acting macho and asking each other what they wrote. However, I agree with the Deputy

Mr. O’Dowd: On a point of information, this is the health research board report. It does not consist of silly answers from students. It is based on facts. The Minister of State does not seem to know this.

Mr. N. Ahern: The results come from the Slán surveys. I am not ignoring them; I am just saying we regard our other survey as more professionally done. I am not complacent. I realise the dangers of poly-drug use, which is a serious problem. Mixing together heroin, cocaine and alcohol or anything else can result in a violent reaction. Many people are unaware of this. We all have different personalities and physical make-ups and this is a factor in what happens.

That is the problem with cocaine. It is harder to get through to people that they are seriously damaging their memory and mental state. Some people might be able to dabble and then walk away while others will suffer serious long-term effects. People are slower to realise that something is having a long-term effect because they think they are just having a great time. It can take some years to see the damage resulting from cocaine use. We can only get around this by working on the basis of prevention. We must educate people. We need campaigns to make people aware of the damage they can cause to themselves. Ultimately, we cannot have a policeman, nurse or health board worker on everybody’s shoulder. People must be responsible for their own well-being and health. However, we are trying to give them the knowledge they need to make informed choices.

Mr. O’Dowd: In most other European countries, a larger number of cocaine addicts present for treatment - up to 20% or 30%. Here, 1% of addicts present for treatment under the Minister of State’s strategy.

Mr. N. Ahern: It might be that things are happening later in this country.

Mr. O’Dowd: The Minister of State is doing nothing about it. He is sitting back.

Mr. O’Shea: Sometimes we can be of the view that only people who are less well off dabble heavily in drugs. Some of the anecdotal evidence that has come my way, however, suggests there is a significant number of well-off people who use cocaine as a leisure drug at the weekend. These people would not turn up in the Department’s statistics.

Mr. N. Ahern: That is correct. Heroin has always been associated with disadvantage. This resulted in the establishment of the local drugs task forces. Cocaine has always existed but was considered a drug for the professional classes who used it on a Friday or Saturday night and were fine again by Monday morning. We have had greater problems with cocaine recently because more of it is available and it is cheaper. This means others are using it and perhaps mixing it with heroin or other substances. It is not just the poor or disadvantaged who suffer major problems as a result of drug use. Middle-class and professional people also have these problems, but such problems are slower to manifest themselves. That is why our educational programmes in schools and so on are targeted at all young people instead of being specific to certain areas.

March 08, 2004

Children Attending Addiction Treatment Services in Dublin, 1990-1999

Children Attending Addiction Treatment Services in Dublin, 1990-1999. Smyth, B.P., O'Brien, M. European Addiction Research 2004;10:68-74 Full Text

March 07, 2004

Luas drivers will be tested for drink and drugs

Source:'Drink and drugs test for Luas drivers' : Sunday Tribune, p. 4, 07 Mar 2004

The Luas operating company Connex has revealed that Luas tram drivers will become the first public sector workers to face compulsory random drug and alcohol testing. If an employee gives a positive test it will result in an instant dismissal. Dublin Bus has no such scheme but has said that its introduction was “on the table”, pending agreement with staff. As yet DART or Irish Rail drivers are not tested, but this will change with the Railway Safety Bill, which when introduced, will allow for measures to test drivers. Aer Lingus has no such scheme in place for pilots, but pointed out that staff are subject to strenuous medicals and a pilot can be referred for a medical examination if there appears anything is wrong.

Deaths from cocaine reach record levels in UK

Source:'Cocaine deaths reach ‘staggering’ levels' : 07 Mar 2004

Figures released from the British Government reveal that cocaine-related deaths rose from 96 in 2002 to 139 in 2002, the biggest year-on-year rise for five years. These figures are based on research from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and may represent a fraction of actual deaths caused by the drug. Many deaths may go unreported as accident and emergency departments do not always test for the drug when people are admitted with chest pains. Figures for 2003 are as yet unavailable but experts predict a further rise. The results includes those who use cocaine and also crack cocaine. At present it is estimated that are approximately 475,000 users of cocaine and 200,000 crack cocaine users in the UK.

March 06, 2004

Alcohol responsible for more violent crime than drugs

Source:'Paying the price' : Guardian Unlimited 06 Mar 2004

The British Crime Survey has shown that alcohol fuels more violent attacks than drugs. The figures show that 53% of violent attacks on strangers were prompted by alcohol, with only 16% prompted by drugs. For domestic violence, alcohol is responsible for 44% of attacks, with 12% involving drugs. A report from the Academy of Medical Sciences has shown that between states well known for high alcohol consumption (Sweden, Finland, Germany, France and Italy), Britain had the highest levels of alcohol-related harm.

March 05, 2004

UN report warns of heroin influx

Source:'Bumper Afghan poppy crop sparks heroin fears' : Irish Examiner, p. 11, 05 Mar 2004

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has stated that Europe could be flooded with heroin after two years of huge poppy harvesting in Afghanistan. “As a result of two years of bumper crops of opium poppy in Afghanistan, it is expected that heroin trafficking along the Balkan route and in Central Europe will increase and stocks, which were drastically depleted during the years of reduced opium poppy production, will be replenished”, stated the INCB annual report. The increase in growth was linked to the collapse of the Taliban regime. “opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan continued on an even larger scale in 2003, after having reached a low level in 2001 due to the ban on such cultivation by the Taliban”, the report continued. It also highlighted Morocco as the major supplier of cannabis for Europe.

Government must take unpopular decisions to reduce alcohol consumption

Source:'UK Government must take unpopular decisions to reduce alcohol consumption' : British Medical Journal 2004;328:542 (6 March) 05 Mar 2004)

Britain "has reached a point where it is necessary and urgent to call time on runaway alcohol consumption," a report on drinking trends says. The report, by the Academy of Medical Sciences, calls on the government to take immediate measures not only to stop the rise in alcohol consumption but to cut drinking to 1970 levels, a reduction of 33%.

Study Finds Alcohol Treatment Medication, Behavioral Therapy Effective For Treating Cocaine Addiction

Source:'Study Finds Alcohol Treatment Medication, Behavioral Therapy Effective For Treating Cocaine Addiction' : 05 Mar 2004

Results of a study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health, suggest that disulfiram, a medication used to treat alcohol addiction, is effective in combating cocaine abuse. The researchers also conclude in the same study that combining disulfiram with behavioral therapy provides more positive results in treating cocaine dependence than disulfiram in combination with another form of therapy. The research is published in the March 2004 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry. Read More

March 04, 2004

Employee drug testing being introduced in Ireland in a low key way

(Source:'Testing times for drugs at work' : Irish Independent Misc., p. 6, 04 Mar 2004)

The recent report of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) revealed that almost one in five people on the island of Ireland has taken an illegal narcotic at some stage. Cannabis was shown to be the most commonly used drug, with 18 per cent reported as having tried it at least once. The annual cost to the economy of alcoholism and drug addiction is estimated at more than €400 million. Within the EU, Sweden and the UK lead the field in workplace drug testing, with most tests being carried out as part of a pre-employment medical. Increasingly, Irish companies are introducing drug testing, but in a low-key way. Director of the Rutland Centre, Stephen Rowan, says that such testing must be supported by an employee assistance and education programme for those found to be drug users. The director of Claymon Laboratories, which provides drug-testing services in Ireland, said that companies should have a clear and coherent drugs and alcohol policy as part of the contract of employment. A study published in 2001 by the journal Forensic Science International was critical of European workplace drug-testing procedures because of their lack of quality control, adulteration testing and chain of custody checks.

Switch from food crops to cannabis production in Africa

(Source:'Cannabis switch hits food crop' : BBC News Online, 04 Mar 2004)

The annual report of the International Narcotics Control Board says that food shortages in Africa are becoming more serious because many farmers have switched from growing food crops to cultivating cannabis. The main producers of cannabis are in countries like South Africa and Malawi, but farmers in east Africa and Sudan are increasingly becoming involved. The report claims that profits from cannabis and other illegal drugs have been used to finance the conflicts in Ivory Coast, Liberia and the Central African Republic. While farmers earn more money from growing cannabis than traditional food crops, the switch to cannabis cultivation means that there is less food available in local markets. ‘The economic and environmental impact of cannabis cultivation, particularly the abandonment of traditional crops, as well as deforestation, are of great concern’, the report said.

Illegal drug sales via web should be criminalised says INCB

In its Annual Report released yesterday (3 March 2004), the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) draws attention to an increase in cyber trafficking of pharmaceutical products containing internationally controlled substances. More

EDDRA update

The Exchange on Drug Demand Reduction Action (EDDRA) is an online database that exists to provide information to policy makers and practitioners on drug demand reduction actions across Europe and to promote the role of evaluation in drug demand reduction action. During February, 7 new projects and updated 5 projects were added to the EDDRA database. More

NIDA Study Finds Alcohol Treatment Medication, Behavioral Therapy Effective for Treating Cocaine Addiction

Results of a study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health, suggest that disulfiram, a medication used to treat alcohol addiction, is effective in combating cocaine abuse. The researchers also conclude in the same study that combining disulfiram with behavioral therapy provides more positive results in treating cocaine dependence than disulfiram in combination with another form of therapy. The research is published in the March 2004 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry. More

European report on drug consumption rooms

European report on drug consumption rooms.EMCDDA 2004

March 03, 2004

Dail Debates. Written Answers. National Drugs Strategy

277. Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the growing concern among addiction services at the use of cocaine and the significant usage of crack cocaine; and the extra resources he has allocated to research or pilot programmes designed to address this growing problem. [7278/04]

278. Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the increase in injecting cocaine; and his Department’s intended response to this growing phenomenon particularly in the Dublin area. [7280/04]

Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Mr. N. Ahern): I propose to take Questions Nos. 277 and 278 together.

My Department has overall responsibility for co-ordinating the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008 as well as funding the work of the local drugs task forces, LDTF, and the Young People’s Facilities and Services Fund, YPFSF. As I have outlined to this House on a number of occasions recently, I am confident that through the implementation of the 100 actions in the strategy and through projects and initiatives operated through the LDTFs and the YPFSF, the problem of cocaine use can be addressed. As the Deputy is aware, these initiatives are concentrated in the Dublin region in the areas of highest drug misuse.

In this context, a range of projects are being supported under the LDTF plans and these focus on prevention, treatment and rehabilitation as well as curbing local supply for a range of drugs, including cocaine. As the Deputy will be aware, most drug abusers engage in poly-drug use and, therefore, projects should be able to address this pattern of usage, rather than concentrating on one drug to the exclusion of others.

In terms of resources, to date, the Government has allocated or spent almost €145 million on LDTF initiatives and projects supported under the YPFSF. In regard to the prevalence of cocaine use, the National Population Survey of Drug Use published by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs, NACD last October 2003 shows that 3.1% of the population have ever used the drug, 1.1% used it in the last 12 months and 0.3% used in the last month. Compared with similar surveys undertaken in other European countries, these figures suggest that Ireland is roughly average in terms of use.

While there is evidence that suggests that cocaine use has increased, the Deputy should be aware the numbers presenting for treatment are still very low and, in total, make up approximately 1% of those in treatment. Similarly, cocaine related offences remain relatively small compared to other drugs and account for approximately 3% of all such offences. In regard to treatment modalities, the Deputy will be aware that there is no substitution treatment drug for cocaine and I am advised that existing services such as counselling and behavioural therapy are the best options available. In this context, it is worth noting that the three area health boards of the Eastern Region Health Authority have recruited additional counsellors and outreach workers in the last number of years.

In addition, I should point out that regional drugs task forces have been established and are currently mapping out (i) the patterns of drug misuse in their areas and (ii) the level and range of existing services. Where cocaine use is found to be a problem, this can reflected in the measures proposed in their future action plans. I can assure the Deputy that I am keeping the matter of cocaine use under review. Furthermore, it should be noted that the strategy provides for an independent evaluation of the effectiveness of the overall framework by end 2004. This will examine the progress being made in achieving the overall key strategic goals set out in the strategy and will enable priorities for further action to be identified and a re-focusing of the strategy, if necessary. The need to amend the strategy to reflect changing patterns of drug use will be considered in that context. Finally, the Deputy should note that primary responsibility for drug addiction services lies with my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Drug Abuse

250. Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the increase in drug users brewing crack cocaine; and the steps his Department and related organisations intend to take to respond to the problem. [7279/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): The Garda authorities have informed me that for many years the Garda national drugs unit, in co-operation with the Forensic Science Laboratory, has been proactive in monitoring the incidents of crack cocaine use here. In 2003 less than 2.5% of the total number of cases forensically screened showed crack cocaine to be present. Reports indicate an increased level of cocaine use in Ireland but offences involving cocaine still remain a small proportion of the overall number of drug offences annually.

In accordance with a commitment in the annual policing plan for 2003, the Garda research unit in conjunction with the Garda NDU are researching cocaine usage and criminal activity and will make policing recommendations accordingly. The research will provide a better insight into the links between cocaine usage and criminal activities and will inform police management about appropriate policing strategies.

The Government’s overall policy to tackle the drug problem is set out in the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008 entitled Building on Experience. Responsibility for co-ordinating its implementation lies with my colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Noel Ahern. He has already stressed that the matter of cocaine use will be kept under close review. As a result of the reports indicating increased levels of cocaine use in Ireland, the national advisory committee on drugs recently presented him with an overview study on cocaine use here for his consideration.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Classification of Drugs

127. Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Health and Children the consideration which is being given to reclassifying the drug cannabis as has happened in the United Kingdom. [3160/04]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): The recent reclassification of cannabis from a class B to a class C drug in the UK means that the maximum criminal penalties for possession of cannabis would be reduced and that the possession of cannabis would become a “non-arrestable offence”. Possession would remain a criminal offence punishable by the criminal courts. The police would then have the option to “report for summons”.

In Ireland, drugs are not classified for penalty purposes in the manner in which they are classified in the UK. While the various controlled drugs have been placed in various schedules, this classification in Ireland is exclusively for the purpose for the controls that are applicable to the classes concerned and have no consequences for the penalties that the courts may apply.

Possession of any controlled drug, without due authorisation, is an offence under section 3 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977. The legislation makes a distinction between possession for personal use and possession for sale or supply. Penalties for possession depend on the type of the substance, for example cannabis or other drugs, and on the penal proceeding, that is whether a summary conviction or a conviction on indictment is obtained. Penalties for unlawful possession for the purpose of sale or supply range from imprisonment for up to one year and-or a fine on summary conviction up to imprisonment for life and-or an unlimited fine if convicted on indictment.

Possession of cannabis and cannabis resin is considered in a different way to other drugs. Possession of cannabis or cannabis resin for personal use is punishable only by a fine on the first and second offences. In the case of a third and subsequent offence, possession for personal use would incur a fine and-or a term of imprisonment at the discretion of the courts. This would be for up to one year on summary conviction and if convicted on indictment imprisonment for up to three years and-or a fine. Possession in any other case would incur a penalty of imprisonment for up to one year and-or a fine on summary conviction and-or up to seven years imprisonment if convicted on indictment. Following the reclassification of cannabis to a class C drug in the UK, the equivalent penalties continue to be higher than those currently in force in this country. The recent events in the United Kingdom, therefore, do not create a justification for any change in our laws or in our approach to the possession for personal use of cannabis or cannabis resin.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Drug Abuse

113. Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps he is taking to provide a preventative programme to reduce the level of opiate related deaths, especially in the Dublin area where the death toll from opiates is now running at the same level as from traffic accidents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7016/04]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): The Central Statistics Office, CSO, compiles the general mortality register’s official statistics on direct drug related deaths each year. The figures on direct opiate related deaths in Dublin from 1997 to 2000 are as follows: 1997 - 50; 1998 - 50; 1999 - 70; and 2000 - 63. I am informed by the Department of Transport that road accident fatalities in Dublin from 1999 to 2002 are as follows: 1999 - 57; 2000 - 69; 2001- 53; and 2002 - 49. The breakdown of figures for 2003 is not yet available.

At present, drug related deaths are recorded by the general mortality register of the CSO, based on the international classification of diseases, ICD, code system. Other countries have developed dedicated systems for recording drug related deaths and it is important, for the purposes of comparative analysis, that the Irish system is capable of generating an equivalent level of information. It is for this reason that one of the actions contained in the national drugs strategy calls for the development of an accurate mechanism for recording the number of drug related deaths. Overall responsibility for this action rests with the coroner’s service and the Central Statistics Office. Work has commenced on progressing this action and my Department is continuing to co-operate with the relevant agencies to establish a mechanism to record accurately the position with drug related deaths.

The overall objective of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008 is to reduce the harm caused to individuals and society by the misuse of drugs through a concerted focus on supply reduction, prevention, treatment and research with the ultimate aim of leading a drug free lifestyle. The health related aspects of the national drugs strategy focus in particular on education and prevention and treatment and rehabilitation, including substitution treatment under the methadone protocol.

The number of methadone treatment places has expanded considerably in recent years, in line with the Government’s commitment under the national drugs strategy. At the end of December 2003 there were 6,883 people receiving methadone treatment. This compares with a figure of just over 5,000 at the end of 2000. In the Eastern Regional Health Authority there are currently 59 drug treatment locations. This compares with 12 locations in 1997. Outside the ERHA, treatment clinics have been established in the South Eastern Health Board, Mid-Western Health Board, Western Health Board and Midland Health Board. General practitioners and pharmacists also provide treatment services and their involvement has also increased over the last number of years.

The boards aim to address substance abuse by providing effective and sustainable services working in partnership with clients and with fellow service providers. All clients entering the addiction services are assessed and appropriate treatment plans are identified based on clients’ needs. Decisions concerning the appropriate treatment for patients are made in accordance with best practice guidelines. Overdose prevention is an inherent part of the comprehensive range of services which the boards provide, including education and prevention, treatment and rehabilitation, counselling and harm reduction. International evidence supports the view that opiate users are safer in treatment. Every effort, therefore, is made to encourage clients to engage in treatment.

For opiate users outside of treatment, outreach workers and needle exchange services actively engage drug users to promote safer drug using practices to address the risks involved in terms of overdose, transmission of blood borne viruses and unsafe sex practices. Harm minimisation is at the core of the three area health boards’ outreach strategy and this includes the risk of overdose. Building on existing initiatives, one area health board has designed a series of posters and leaflets, due to be piloted in spring 2004, directly addressing risk factors contributing to overdose and how individuals can best provide assistance to those who may have overdosed.

This is taking place as part of a health promotion programme, which has been designed to promote service users taking a more active role in their own health in a range of areas. With regard to the increased risk of overdose facing opiate users who are released from prison, there are protocols in place for the transfer of those who are engaged in substitute treatment while incarcerated to facilitate their take up for treatment on release.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. National Drugs Strategy

101. Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the views of the Irish Pharmaceutical Union that the methadone treatment programme is in danger of collapse. [3164/04]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): As the Deputy is aware, responsibility for the provision of drug treatment services rests with the health boards or authority in the first instance. The overall objective of the national drugs strategy for 2001 to 2008 is to reduce the harm caused to individuals and society by the misuse of drugs. That is to be achieved through a concerted focus on supply reduction, prevention, treatment and research with the ultimate aim of leading a drug-free life. The health-related aspects of the national drugs strategy focus in particular on education and prevention, and treatment and rehabilitation, including substitution treatment under the methadone protocol.

The number of methadone treatment places has expanded considerably in recent years, in line with the Government’s commitment under the national drugs strategy. At the end of January 2004, there were 6,860 people receiving methadone treatment. That compares with a figure of just over 5,000 at the end of 2000. The involvement of community pharmacists is a vital element in the operation of the methadone protocol. In particular it allows for the expansion of drug treatment services, and for large numbers of opiate-dependent persons to be treated in their own local area. At the end of January 2004 there were 298 community pharmacies providing methadone maintenance treatment to 3,738 patients.

There has been no suggestion to the Department by the Irish Pharmaceutical Union that the methadone protocol is in danger of collapse. However, the IPU has raised a number of issues regarding the operation of the scheme with the Department and has expressed concern that those issues could discourage participation in the scheme. I understand that some day-to-day operational difficulties have been discussed and dealt with at health board level. At national level, the methadone implementation committee, which includes pharmacy representation, is finalising a review of the operation of the protocol. In addition, officials from my Department and representatives from the IPU are meeting today to ensure further the smooth operation of the scheme at national level.

I understand that among the concerns that have been raised is the suitability of patients for placement in a community setting and personal security issues for pharmacy staff. As regards patient management, there is a system in place whereby clients are assessed by a GP co-ordinator and liaison pharmacist before being transferred to community-based services. That is to ensure that service users have attained a high degree of stability regarding their drug misuse. The practice of assessment before placement is a standard operating policy of the addiction services. Furthermore, if difficulties arise with a service user in a community pharmacy, a system is in place to allow the service user to be reassigned to treatment in an addiction centre within 24 hours.

The liaison pharmacist in each health board acts as the interface between the community pharmacy and the health hoard. I understand that the model is working extremely well. Indeed, its success is indicated by the increase in community pharmacists becoming involved in the provision of methadone in recent years. In that context, I can assure the House that the issues raised are being addressed at health board, departmental and methadone implementation committee level.

UN urges action against Internet drug trafficking

(Source:'UN calls for end to online drugs trade' : The Guardian [Online], 03 Mar 2004)

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the policing arm of the UN’s anti-drugs agency, urged governments to clamp down on the growth of ‘internet pharmacies’ that illicitly ship narcotic and mood-altering drugs to Europe. A snapshot survey of US websites found 150 that were advertising pharmaceutical drugs for sale without prescription. The INCB said governments needed to ensure that such Internet trafficking was legislated against as a criminal offence. The agency also criticised countries for not taking measures against the incitement of drug abuse within the media, arguing that an ambiguity in attitudes towards drug abuse is common in western Europe. Countries in eastern Europe that have adopted ‘harm-reduction’ measures such as needle-exchange programmes and safe injecting rooms to combat the spread of AIDS/HIV infection also came in for sharp criticism by the agency

Prison warder pleads guilty to drug possession

(Source:'Warder admits drug possession' : Irish Independent, p. 11, 03 Mar 2004)

A prison officer employed at Wheatfield prison yesterday pleaded guilty at Portlaoise Circuit Criminal Court to possessing cocaine with intent to supply and of causing damage to a Garda car on 11 April last. The quantity of cocaine involved had an estimated street value of €1,821; the man also pleaded guilty to possessing ecstasy worth €60. Defence counsel said that the man, Sean O’Gorman, had been suspended from his job at Wheatfield since 12 April last year because of the charges involved

Court told of psychosis brought on by cannabis use

(Source:'Youth’s psychosis caused by cannabis use, court told' : Irish Times, p. 4, 03 Mar 2004)

A 17-year-old Nigerian youth was arrested for creating a disturbance at the A&E Department of the Mater Hospital on 18 February. He had been referred there after a psychiatrist diagnosed him as suffering from a drug-induced psychosis brought on by cannabis use. He was remanded in custody to Cloverhill prison, with the condition that he be immediately transferred to the Central Mental Hospital for urgent treatment

Annual Report of the International Narcotics Control Board 2003

Full Text
Print edition available from the NDC

Press Release
Annual Report of the International Narcotics Control Board Focuses on Relationship between Drug Abuse, Crime and Violence at Community Level

VIENNA, 27 February (UN Information Service) -- The impact of drug abuse on crime and violence at the community level is the main focus of the 2003 Annual Report of the Vienna-based International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), to be released here on 3 March 2004.

The macro level political and security implications of transnational organized crime syndicates dealing in drugs has been recognized by the international community for some time. In this year’s Report, the Vienna-based INCB -- an independent quasi-judicial body of thirteen experts monitoring compliance with the international drug control treaties -- also urges Governments to give special attention to micro-trafficking -- i.e. community level drug abuse and related crime.

“At this level, drug abuse is often linked with antisocial behaviour such as delinquency, crime, and violence and has negative consequences for individuals, families, neighbourhoods and communities that need to be addressed by the international community and individual governments,” INCB President Philip O. Emafo points out.

While the Board clarifies that most crime related to drug abuse is non-violent and petty, it stresses that the impact of illicit drugs, crime and violence is highly damaging to local communities at the micro-social level.

“The very fabric of society is challenged by the continued presence in communities of drug-related crime. Communities that suffer disproportionate levels of violent drug-related crime also suffer from higher levels of other criminality and the disruption to civil society associated with it,” says the Board.

The relationship between violence and illicit drug abuse is highly complex and has to be examined keeping a range of factors in mind. The Report maintains that a demonstrable link to violence and crime exists in that some drug addicts resort to violence either to fund their habits or indeed as a result of the psycho-pharmacological impact of some illicit drugs. However, based on controlled laboratory-based experiments, INCB stresses that it is very difficult and misleading to suggest a direct causal link between violence and illicit drug ingestion. This link has to be examined with reference to culturally and socially situated factors, that, in turn, influence an individual’s behaviour.

The INCB calls on Governments to implement comprehensive, community-based drug demand reduction policies, paying special attention to drug abuse prevention in combination with a range of social, economic and law enforcement measures. These should include: creating a local environment that is not conducive to drug dealing and micro-trafficking; supporting local efforts at employment and licit income generation; educational programmes targeting socially marginalized groups; and integrated as well as targeted intervention work with risk groups. The Board also notes that programmes need to be sustainable in the long term in order to generate the desired impact.

Harm Reduction

Harm reduction policies have previously been addressed by the Board. In the current Annual Report the Board once again “calls on Governments which intend to include “harm reduction” measures into their demand reduction strategy, to carefully analyse the overall impact of such measures. These may sometimes be positive for an individual or for a local community while having far-reaching negative consequences at the national and international levels.”

In reaction to specific harm reduction measures such as the establishment and/or operation of drug injection rooms the Board points out that “the operation of such facilities remains a source of grave concern” and “reiterates that they violate the provisions of the international drug control conventions.”

Cyber Trafficking

The Report also draws attention to a continued increase in cyber trafficking of pharmaceutical products containing internationally controlled substances. Internet pharmacies, which can operate from any part of the world, play a major role in the increasing illicit supply of pharmaceutical products containing narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. Illegally operating Internet pharmacies do not require a doctor’s prescription or just offer on-line or telephone consultations.

Citing uneven and lax implementation of laws governing the Internet, the Board urges Governments to take a more proactive stand. To support legal action Governments should ensure that the offer for illicit trafficking and the diversion of pharmaceutical products containing narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances via the Internet are established as criminal offences.

The Board also points to the dangerously widespread perception that misuse and abuse of pharmaceutical products is not as harmful as the abuse of illicitly manufactured drugs. The Board therefore, notes with concern that the judiciary in many countries still does not attribute adequate severity to diversions and trafficking of licit controlled substances.

Essential Drugs Inadequate for Pain Relief

In keeping with its task of monitoring and ensuring that an adequate supply of narcotic drugs exists for licit medical purposes, the INCB warns that the availability and consumption of some essential narcotic drugs, particularly opioids, which are used for pain treatment, including palliative care, remains extremely low in many countries worldwide.

The Board has identified that the low availability of certain types of medicine can be related to at least three different factors. First, unnecessarily strict rules and regulations have created an impediment for providing adequate access of populations to certain controlled drugs in some countries. Second, the negative perception about controlled drugs among medical professionals and patients in many countries has limited their rational use. Third, lack of economic means and insufficient resources for health care has resulted in inadequate medical treatment, including the use of narcotic drugs.

The current global production is ample enough to meet a significant increase in the demand for narcotic drugs for the world population. The Board encourages manufacturing countries, in cooperation with the pharmaceutical industry, to explore ways to make narcotic drugs, in particular opioids, used for the treatment of pain, more affordable for countries with scarce financial resources and low levels of consumption.

Chemical Control

In the Report, INCB calls upon all governments concerned to join forces in combating the problem of Amphetamine-Type Stimulants (ATS) abuse through Project Prism, a worldwide operation to prevent diversions of “precursor” chemicals which traffickers need for clandestine manufacture of ATS. Project Prism is designed to give governments the capacity to address the ATS problem. It has a two-pronged approach: preventing illicit manufacture of the substances by stopping traffickers from obtaining the chemicals they require, and, identifying and dismantling the laboratories where such manufacture already takes place, by using a variety of law enforcement investigative techniques, such as controlled deliveries.

Regional operations were started under the umbrella of Project Prism in January 2003. In particular, law enforcement investigations have been initiated for interceptions in Europe of amphetamine and Ecstasy precursors, and in the Americas for methamphetamine precursors, to track the sources of the chemicals and to prosecute those responsible for the diversions.

These activities reinforce the existing tracking programmes, which were introduced by INCB a decade ago, to prevent diversions of methamphetamine precursors from licit international trade. Project Prism also follows the launches of Operation Purple in 2001 and Operation Topaz in 2002 which focused on the control of the chemical precursors for cocaine and heroin.

Regional Highlights

Despite the armed intervention and the political change in Afghanistan and the fight against terror, illicit cultivation of and trafficking in opiates has grown which may result in more political instability. Opium cultivation in Afghanistan continued on an even larger scale in 2003.

As a result of two years of bumper crops of opium poppy in Afghanistan, it is expected that heroin trafficking along the Balkan route and through Eastern Europe will continue to increase -- this may also lead to the reversal of the declining trends in the abuse of heroin in Western Europe.

More widespread cultivation and abuse of cannabis in Europe combined with a relaxation of controls might counteract required efforts to eradicate illicit cultivation and combat trafficking in Europe and elsewhere in the world.

Information gathered from conflict-stricken countries, in particular the Central African Republic, the Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia, indicates that arms and ammunitions used by rebel groups and criminal organizations may have been partially procured with the proceeds of illicit drug trafficking.

The increased focus on the political threat of the drug problem has led many South American Governments to devote an ever-increasing proportion of their limited resources to reducing illicit drug supply, including by the eradication of illicit crops, the interdiction of drug trafficking and the introduction of measures against money-laundering.

Abuse of prescription drugs in the United States continues and is exacerbated by the unlawful selling of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances by online pharmacies from within and outside the United States. Between 1995 and 2002, there was a 163 per cent increase in the number of emergency-room visits linked to the abuse of narcotic pain medication.

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March 02, 2004

Supplies of cheap and pure heroin creating addiction crisis

(Source:'Heroin 2004 version' : Irish Times, Health Supplement, p. 3, 02 Mar 2004)

The availability of increasing supplies of cheap and pure heroin is creating a growing addiction crisis in the US, where it is replacing crack cocaine as the drug of choice. More than 4 per cent of high school boys in Massachusetts, for example, are reported to have used heroin. National Public Radio reports that, in the Boston area, the number of 18—19-year-olds seeking emergency treatment for heroin use doubled between 2000 and 2002.

SAOL project focuses on education

(Source:'Education gives drug users hope' : Irish Times, Health Supplement, p. 6, 02 Mar 2004)

A group of 11 women from the SAOL project have recently completed a certificate course in Women’s Studies from UCD. SAOL is a community programme based in Dublin’s north inner city for women in drug-addiction treatment and focuses on helping them to access further education. Tutors from UCD teach the course at the SAOL premises. One of the 11 is now planning to study Social Sciences in TCD.

Plans to rid prisons of drugs meet with objections

(Source:'Prison staff question McDowell drug plans' : Irish Examiner, p. 4, 02 Mar 2004)

The Governor of Mountjoy Prison, John Lonergan, has questioned Minister Michael McDowell’s plans to introduce mandatory drug testing and no-contact prison visits to combat drug use in jails. The Prison Officers Association (POA) claim that they were not consulted on either issue; and prisoners’ rights activists have also objected to the plans, describing them as ‘a bull in a china shop’ approach to prison reform. Mr Lonergan, who plans to retire when Mountjoy moves to new premises, said he was opposed to what he believed was an overly simplistic approach to the drugs problem. He said the policy failed to understand the nature of addiction. A member of the POA said his organisation was deeply concerned about drug use in prisons, but believed all addicted inmates should have access to a comprehensive drug treatment programme

March 01, 2004

Guidelines on Developing an Alcohol & Drug Policy for your Workplace

Guidelines on Developing an Alcohol & Drug Policy for your Workplace (Western Health Board, 2003) Full Text

Minister McDowell prepared to stop contact between visitors and prisoners to reduce drugs in prison

Source:'Minister warns of compulsory drug testing prison clean-up ' : Irish Independent, p. 6, 01 Mar 2004

Mr Michael Mc Dowell has said that he is willing to limit contact between prisoners and visitors in a bid to reduce drugs in prison. It is well known that drugs are often smuggled into prisons this way. Mr Mc Dowell has also proposed the introduction of mandatory drug testing for prisoners as he aims for his ideal of drug-free prisons. He said: “To have drugs present in our prisons is a catastrophe. It is a catastrophe from the point of view of the individual prisoner who is receiving the drugs and is being tempted to feed his or her habit. For obvious reasons it brings huge pressure within the prison system itself. It is a catastrophe because the whole system of rehabilitation is cast aside for everybody who is not being protected from drugs. And it is a catastrophe for the person who leaves prison having had access to drugs for the duration of their sentence, going back on to the street with virtually no support and in apposition where the only real way to survive is to re-offend”.

His comments were criticised by john Lonergan, Mountjoy prison governor. “We don’t have a heroin factory in Mountjoy, every drug that comes into Mountjoy comes up the North Circular Road. Perhaps if you cut off the supply on the North Circular Road perhaps we too would have drug-free areas in Mountjoy. It would be a disservice to the public if the minister didn’t listen to the people at the coal face and have some better idea of what it is like to run a prison”, said Mr Lonergan.

Drug deaths equal deaths on roads.

Source:'Drugs kills as many as roads.' : The Sun, p 2 01 Mar 2004

Recent statistics released by the Department of Health reveal that the number of people dying as a result of drug use almost equals the numbers being killed on Irish roads. Between 1997 and 2000 the number of opiate-related deaths was 233, just 5 short of the number of people killed in road traffic accidents during the same period. Labour spokesman for Health, Liz McManus TD said that these figures demonstrated that the same level of commitment is required to combatting drug-related deaths as is currently being given preventing road fatalities.

Report of the Inspection of Wheatfield Prison by the Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention 2003 -2004

This report notes that whilst the Governor of Wheatfield states that they have two Drug Free Units, the prison is not without illegal drugs. Prisoners are regularly found to have received drugs while on visits. Drugs and Alcohol are also smuggled into the prison in a number of different ways. Action is taken by the prison authorities to
counteract this practice.
Full Text

Report on Wheatfield calls for more drug-free units.

Source:'Judge accuses prison service of neglecting open jail's potential' : Irish Independent, p 8 28 Feb 2004

A report on Wheatfield prison by the Inspector of Prisons, Mr Justice Dermot Kinlen, has highlighted the need for more drug-free units. There are about 70 prisons receiving methadone treatment in the Clondalkin prision and the report argues that there is a need for more staff to monitor and manage the programme. The report also highlights the problem of smuggling drugs into the prison.

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