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April 30, 2004

Carlow alarmed at spread of drug problem

(Source:'Over 100 addicted to heroin in Carlow' : Carlow Nationalist, p. 1, 30 Apr 2004)

It is estimated that there are more than 100 heroin addicts in Carlow town, according to a spokesperson for the Carlow Drugs Unit. Young single mothers and young men in their 20s who are addicted to heroin are causing significant concern to social services in the town. Sources reveal that some addicts are feeding a habit that requires four fixes a day and are spending up to€700 a week on heroin. A methadone treatment clinic currently operates from St Dympna’s Hospital. Cocaine dealing is also prevalent in the town, while cannabis and ecstasy are also a major worry for the authorities

Report on selective prevention in the European Union and Norway

'Report on selective prevention in the European Union and Norway'. This report is a commented compilation of country reports prepared by experts in a survey carried out between April and June 2003. Download report

April 29, 2004

Nursing conference hears of new threat from ecstasy use


(Source:'Ecstasy tablets being taken as a way to lose weight despite organ damage' : Irish Independent, p. 10, 29 Apr 2004)

Ecstasy tablets are now being taken by young people as a means of losing weight, despite the severe damage they cause to the kidneys and liver, according to Detective Garda John Evans. The detective was speaking to delegates at the SIPTU nursing convention in Killarney yesterday. He gave examples of one young girl who was taking eight ecstasy tablets a day to keep slim, and a young man whose weight had dropped from 17 to nine stone while he was taking ecstasy tablets. He went on to talk about the effects of cannabis use, which he called ‘the dirtiest of all drugs’; in his experience it ‘caused bright young people to become disinterested, lethargic and to have little interest in person hygiene’. He said that a record should be kept of the number of cannabis-related failures and drop-outs from third-level colleges.

Prison row over smuggled cannabis


(Source:'Prison drugs battle' : Irish Daily Mirror, p. 17, 29 Apr 2004)

A row broke out in Cloverhill Prison last night after a group of prisoners stole a supply of cannabis that had been smuggled into the prison by other inmates who were members of the Traveller community. The row erupted at 11.00am when rival gangs confronted each other in the prison yard. But, while 80 prisoners were in the yard, only six got involved in the brawl. A spokesman for the Prison Officers Association said: ‘The situation was brought quickly under control by the quick thinking and professionalism of prison staff.’

Effective Interventions Unit: Reducing the impact of local drug markets: A research review

(Source:'Scottish Executive: Effective Interventions Unit, ' : Daily Dose, 29 Apr 2004)

This report from the Scottish Executive reviews existing evidence on the effectiveness of interventions to reduce the impact of low-level markets and describes some current examples of work in Scotland. It draws on a review of existing international research literature and EIU ‘fact-finding’ visits to nine local areas in six Scottish forces. It will be of interest to police managers, drug and alcohol action team members and officers, and drug agencies who could, or already do, work in partnership with the police in tackling local drug markets. The full report is available at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/library5/health/eiuldm-00.asp

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Garda Deployment

126. Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will allocate additional resources to target open drug dealing at an area (details supplied) in Dublin 8 in view of the fact that this problem is now out of control. [12435/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): I have been informed by the Garda authorities who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the cessation of drug abuse, in any location, is a top priority for all members of the Garda Síochána and many notable successes have been achieved by the Garda district drug units within the DMR, south central division.

The locations referred to by the Deputy continue to be singled out for specific targeting by gardaí attached to the district drugs unit at Kilmainham station. A local initiative entitled “Operation Viking”, aimed at targeting offenders engaged in drug abuse and-or dealing, continues to be implemented by the gardaí. In general policing terms, the specific locations mentioned are patrolled by uniformed gardaí, the local detective unit, the divisional crime task force, the Garda mountain bike unit and the special resource unit. In addition, the community policing units devote extra special attention to these specific locations.

I have been informed that local Garda management is satisfied that the current level of resources at its disposal, for the policing of the locations referred to by the Deputy, are adequate.

April 28, 2004

FG motion points to role of drugs and alcohol in traffic accidents

(Source:'Dail told of lunatics who drive high on drugs' : Irish Independent, p. 9, 28 Apr 2004)

Fine Gael TD Michael Ring, speaking in the Dail during a Private Member’s motion on road safety, said that gardai did not have enough resources to deal with the extent of drink driving and driving under the influence of drugs. While alcohol is still the main cause of traffic accidents, there is a growing problem of ‘lunatics high on drugs’ driving cars.

Website to help users control or quit cannabis use


(Source:'www.cannabishelp.org.uk/' : Daily Dose, [Hit.org.uk], 28 Apr 2004)

Many people use cannabis without developing serious problems and seem to be able to stop easily when they want to. However some people find it difficult to cut-down or quit. Currently, the availability of help for cannabis users who want to cut-down or stop is limited in the UK. The self-help cannabis website is a low threshold way of enabling cannabis users to take control of their use. It is interactive and easy to use. Available at http://www.cannabishelp.org.uk/

April 27, 2004

Dail Debates. Written Answers. National Drugs Strategy

108. Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the measures his Department intends to take to tackle the growing use of drugs throughout the State, as highlighted in research published earlier this month by the NACD and its Northern Ireland equivalent DAIRU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11936/04]

138. Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the recent drug prevalence survey 2002-03; his views on the report’s findings which demonstrate that drug use has now spread to every corner of the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11835/04]

152. Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the findings of the drug prevalence survey, commissioned jointly by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and the Drug and Alcohol Information and Research Unit in Northern Ireland. [11810/04]

Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Mr. N. Ahern): I propose to take Questions Nos. 108, 138 and 152 together.

The report to which the Deputies refer is Bulletin 2 of the 2002-2003 drug prevalence survey which I launched last week. The survey was undertaken jointly by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs in Ireland and the Drug and Alcohol Information and Research Unit in Northern Ireland.

Initial results from the survey, which looked at the overall national position, were published last October last year and showed that most of the general population have never used any illegal drug. Less than 19% reported ever taking an illegal drug.

The second bulletin gives a breakdown of data by health board areas and some of the key findings are as follows: the proportion of those surveyed who reported ever having taken an illegal drug varied between 11% and 29% across health board areas; the lowest rate of recent illegal drug use - those surveyed who reported using an illegal substance in the previous year - was recorded in the North Western Health Board at 3% and the highest rate was in the Northern Area Health Board at 8%; prevalence rates of current drug use, those surveyed who reported having used the drug in the previous month, varied from 0.5% in the North Western Health Board to 5% in the Northern Area Health Board; prevalence rates - lifetime, recent and current - tended to be higher in the eastern part of the country; cannabis was the main illegal drug used on a lifetime, recent or current basis in all health board areas.

Prevalence rates for cannabis were at least twice as high for other illegal drugs; prevalence rates for other illegal drugs were considerably lower than for cannabis across all areas and periods of time. For example, the highest prevalence rate for recent use of ecstasy was 3% and cocaine powder 2%, compared to 8% for cannabis; the profile of illegal drug users showed significant consistency across health boards in almost all areas. Prevalence rates of lifetime, recent and current use were higher among men than women and higher among young people than older people while prevalence rates for sedatives, tranquillisers and anti-depressants were higher among older people and women in most areas.

The research confirms that most people in all regions have never used illegal drugs, even if there are significant regional variations. However, I am aware that the results highlight the fact that drug use is not confined to major cities but is an issue for urban and rural areas. The Government is not in any way complacent about this issue and remains determined to tackle it on several fronts. Through the ongoing implementation of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008, the valuable work being done by the local drugs task forces and the young people’s facilities and services fund, and the work commencing by the regional drugs task forces, much is being, and will continue to be, done in future to tackle the drug problem.

All the local drugs task forces, with the exception of Bray, are implementing their second round of action plans. The Government has allocated or spent approximately €65 million to implement the range of projects contained in the plans of the task forces since 1997. A further €11.6 million has been allocated to projects under the premises initiative, which is designed to meet the accommodation needs of community-based drugs projects, most of which are in local drugs task force areas.

In addition, approximately €72 million has been allocated to support over 450 facility and services projects in local drugs task force areas and the four other urban centres under the young people’s facilities and services fund. This includes an amount of over €13 million which I recently allocated under round II of the fund, over half of which is in respect of capital developments.

The regional drugs task forces are mapping out the patterns of drug misuse in their areas - as well as the range and level of existing services - with a view to better co-ordination and addressing gaps in the overall provision. This work will then feed into the drafting of regional action plans, which will be assessed by the National Drugs Strategy team in due course. I hope to be in a position to bring recommendations on funding of the plans to the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion early next year and that the regional drugs task forces can begin to implement their plans by mid-2005.

Finally, the publication of the information contained in this bulletin is particularly timely as the mid-term review of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008, will commence soon. This valuable information will significantly add to our knowledge and understanding of drug use across the country which is essential in developing appropriate policies for the future.

Dail Debate. Priority Questions. National Drug Strategy

100. Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on recent media reports that drug dealers are flooding streets here with cheap cocaine; his further views on whether an entire generation of young persons will become addicted to cheap cocaine; if he has met community workers to discuss the cocaine problem; the efforts his Department is making to combat cocaine abuse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11834/04]

Mr. N. Ahern: I am aware of the evidence of an increase in the prevalence of cocaine use, particularly through the local drugs task forces and the research done by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs. Initial results from the 2002-03 drug prevalence survey of the overall national position, launched last October, showed that 3.1 % of the population between the ages of 15 and 64 have ever used cocaine, 1.1 % used it in the past 12 months and 0.3% used it in the past month. Results for the 15 to 34 year age group show slightly higher usage: 4.8% have ever used cocaine, 2% have used it in the past year and 0.7% reported usage in the past month. Compared with similar surveys undertaken in other European countries, these figures suggest that use in Ireland is perhaps slightly above average.

Bulletin 2 of the survey was launched last week and contains data for health board areas. The figures show that prevalence of all drugs varies considerably across the country, although there appears to be a higher prevalence in the east, particularly in the ERHA region. The numbers presenting for treatment of cocaine are, according to the most recent figures available, still very low and make up approximately 1% of the overall number of people in treatment. Garda authorities advise me that there are indications of an increase in the availability and use of cocaine. Offences involving cocaine, however, still represent a small proportion of the overall number of drug offences annually, approximately 5.5% of all such offences, according to the most recent Garda annual report.

The increase in Ireland appears to coincide with an increase in the availability and use of cocaine in Europe generally, as a result of increased production, particularly in Colombia, and a consequential drop in the street price. Through the implementation of the 100 actions in the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008 and through projects and initiatives operated through the local drugs task forces and the young people’s facilities and services fund, the problem of cocaine use can be addressed. Each of the local drugs task forces has in place an action plan to tackle drug use in its area based on its identified priorities. These projects deal with supply reduction, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation for a range of drugs, including cocaine. We must be aware that most drug users engage in poly-drug use and projects should be able to address this pattern of usage rather than concentrating on one drug to the exclusion of others. Since 1997 the Government has allocated or spent over €65 million to implement the projects under the two rounds of task force plans.

Regional drug task forces have been established in each health board area. Where cocaine use is found to be a problem, this can be reflected in the measures proposed in their forthcoming regional action plans. The Deputy will also be aware of the valuable preventative work being done through the young people’s facilities and services fund whose aim is to attract “at risk” young people in disadvantaged areas into facilities, programmes and activities that will divert them away from the dangers of drug misuse.


Additional information not given on the floor of the House

Over €72 million has been allocated under the fund to support in the region of 450 facility and services projects. 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 young people into a life of addiction. There is no substitution treatment drug for cocaine and I am advised that existing services such as counselling and behavioural therapy are the best treatments available. In this context, it should be noted that the three area health boards of the ERHA have recruited additional counsellors and outreach workers in recent years. I am keeping the matter of cocaine use under review.

Furthermore, 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 goals set out in the strategy and will enable priorities for further action to be identified and a refocusing of the strategy, if necessary. The need to amend the strategy to reflect changing patterns of drug use will be considered in that context. In recent months I have visited several local drugs task force areas and discussed with community representatives and others the nature of the drug problem in their areas, including cocaine use. I have asked the national drugs strategy team to consider how best to develop proposals to help address this issue at local level.

Mr. Quinn: Does the Minister of State have any new ideas for dealing with this increasing widespread poly-drug use? The situation in Ringsend suggests that the drugs rehabilitation groups and other organisations need a major increase in funding. Many who experiment with drugs progress and leave them behind but those whom the drug culture captures need extra, sustained help to get out of the drug habit, to be rehabilitated and get opportunities for training or retraining to enable them to progress to full-time employment. Will the Minister of State say what action, if any, he proposes to take to reinforce those rehabilitation agencies?

Mr. N. Ahern: Cocaine was always used by certain categories of people but it is cheaper now and is being used by a different group, including those in disadvantaged areas. Many of those using it are in treatment for heroin addiction or other problems. The Deputy was very involved in the strategy which runs from 2001 to 2008 and will undergo a half-term evaluation this year. An in-house team and a group from outside will study it later this year. The strategy concentrated on getting heroin misusers into treatment. The number of those receiving methadone treatment exceeds the target set because communities cried out for substitute treatment. One hears fewer stories today about elderly people being mugged by people looking for their next fix. However, some of the 100 actions listed in the strategy have received more attention than others. The main drive has been to encourage people to take methadone. That scheme has been more or less ring-fenced, although there were objections from communities to it. There are a number of schemes.

Are general rehabilitation schemes and drug-free programmes getting enough resources? With 7,000 people on methadone, that is the kind of issue under discussion at present. The mid-term review of the strategy will give us an opportunity to look at that. Everyone agreed that getting addicts onto methadone was the way to go. Now that we have got there, I accept there is some validity in the argument that we should be looking at other more long-term measures. While methadone works for some people, it is not a long-term solution. The mid-term review will allow us to look for a solution to this problem.

Some 1,000 people remain on FÁS schemes. However, I accept we would benefit from more places. We get feedback on a continual basis from people but the mid-term review will provide a formal way to evaluate what we have done in recent years and examine if we should move in other directions.

Mental health professionals warn of dangers of cannabis

(Source:'Mind & Body this week: the dangers of cannabis' : Irish Independent Life, p. 11, 27 Apr 2004)

Recent figures have shown that cannabis is the most widely used illegal substance in Ireland, with 17.5 per cent of the population having used it at least once, and is perceived to be less harmful than cigarette smoking. However, mental health professionals are urging the Department of Health to ensure that we do not follow the UK in making possession of cannabis a less criminal offence. Psychiatrist Dr Siobhan Barry points out that investigation has shown long-term changes in brain structure and functions in cannabis users. Cannabis can cause acute psychosis; it can bring on the condition in young people and worsen the outcome in those with pre-existing mental health problems. She says ‘It is estimated the removal of cannabis use from 15-year-olds would reduce the later development in that population by 8%.’ She said that it is not possible to identify which individuals are at most risk from cannabis use, therefore the whole population should be protected from it.

Latest service evaluation guide from Scottish Executive


(Source:'Evaluation Guide 13: Supporting families and carers of drug users' : Daily Dose, 27 Apr 2004)

The purpose of this, the thirteenth Evaluation Guide from the Effective Interventions Unit of the Scottish Executive, is to provide a framework for measuring the success of services provided to families and carers of drug users (and is also useful for evaluating services supporting families of people affected by alcohol problems). It should be read by anyone commissioning, planning, developing, providing and evaluating such services. It follows the publication of the review ‘Supporting Families and Carers of Drug Users (EIU 2002). The full series of guides is available at: http://www.drugmisuse.isdscotland.org/eiu.htm

Latest issue of 'Update' from UK Treatment Agency

(Source:'Update, Issue No. 5 – April 2004 ' : Daily Dose, 27 Apr 2004)

The National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA) in the UK has published the latest issue of Update – Issue No. 5, April 2004. In the Agency’s words, this publication is ‘designed to keep you informed about our work, and promote a dialogue between us and our commissioners, service providers, service users and the communities we serve and to which we belong’. The current issue reports on the results of a survey of stakeholders that reveals progress in the quality and quantity of drug treatment services and suggests future focus for the NTA. Update, Issue No. 5, is available on the NTA website at: http://www.nta.nhs.uk/publications/update5.htm

Dail Debate. Priority Questions. National Drug Strategy

100. Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on recent media reports that drug dealers are flooding streets here with cheap cocaine; his further views on whether an entire generation of young persons will become addicted to cheap cocaine; if he has met community workers to discuss the cocaine problem; the efforts his Department is making to combat cocaine abuse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11834/04]

Mr. N. Ahern: I am aware of the evidence of an increase in the prevalence of cocaine use, particularly through the local drugs task forces and the research done by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs. Initial results from the 2002-03 drug prevalence survey of the overall national position, launched last October, showed that 3.1 % of the population between the ages of 15 and 64 have ever used cocaine, 1.1 % used it in the past 12 months and 0.3% used it in the past month. Results for the 15 to 34 year age group show slightly higher usage: 4.8% have ever used cocaine, 2% have used it in the past year and 0.7% reported usage in the past month. Compared with similar surveys undertaken in other European countries, these figures suggest that use in Ireland is perhaps slightly above average.

Bulletin 2 of the survey was launched last week and contains data for health board areas. The figures show that prevalence of all drugs varies considerably across the country, although there appears to be a higher prevalence in the east, particularly in the ERHA region. The numbers presenting for treatment of cocaine are, according to the most recent figures available, still very low and make up approximately 1% of the overall number of people in treatment. Garda authorities advise me that there are indications of an increase in the availability and use of cocaine. Offences involving cocaine, however, still represent a small proportion of the overall number of drug offences annually, approximately 5.5% of all such offences, according to the most recent Garda annual report.

The increase in Ireland appears to coincide with an increase in the availability and use of cocaine in Europe generally, as a result of increased production, particularly in Colombia, and a consequential drop in the street price. Through the implementation of the 100 actions in the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008 and through projects and initiatives operated through the local drugs task forces and the young people’s facilities and services fund, the problem of cocaine use can be addressed. Each of the local drugs task forces has in place an action plan to tackle drug use in its area based on its identified priorities. These projects deal with supply reduction, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation for a range of drugs, including cocaine. We must be aware that most drug users engage in poly-drug use and projects should be able to address this pattern of usage rather than concentrating on one drug to the exclusion of others. Since 1997 the Government has allocated or spent over €65 million to implement the projects under the two rounds of task force plans.

Regional drug task forces have been established in each health board area. Where cocaine use is found to be a problem, this can be reflected in the measures proposed in their forthcoming regional action plans. The Deputy will also be aware of the valuable preventative work being done through the young people’s facilities and services fund whose aim is to attract “at risk” young people in disadvantaged areas into facilities, programmes and activities that will divert them away from the dangers of drug misuse.


Additional information not given on the floor of the House

Over €72 million has been allocated under the fund to support in the region of 450 facility and services projects. 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 young people into a life of addiction. There is no substitution treatment drug for cocaine and I am advised that existing services such as counselling and behavioural therapy are the best treatments available. In this context, it should be noted that the three area health boards of the ERHA have recruited additional counsellors and outreach workers in recent years. I am keeping the matter of cocaine use under review.

Furthermore, 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 goals set out in the strategy and will enable priorities for further action to be identified and a refocusing of the strategy, if necessary. The need to amend the strategy to reflect changing patterns of drug use will be considered in that context. In recent months I have visited several local drugs task force areas and discussed with community representatives and others the nature of the drug problem in their areas, including cocaine use. I have asked the national drugs strategy team to consider how best to develop proposals to help address this issue at local level.

Mr. Quinn: Does the Minister of State have any new ideas for dealing with this increasing widespread poly-drug use? The situation in Ringsend suggests that the drugs rehabilitation groups and other organisations need a major increase in funding. Many who experiment with drugs progress and leave them behind but those whom the drug culture captures need extra, sustained help to get out of the drug habit, to be rehabilitated and get opportunities for training or retraining to enable them to progress to full-time employment. Will the Minister of State say what action, if any, he proposes to take to reinforce those rehabilitation agencies?

Mr. N. Ahern: Cocaine was always used by certain categories of people but it is cheaper now and is being used by a different group, including those in disadvantaged areas. Many of those using it are in treatment for heroin addiction or other problems. The Deputy was very involved in the strategy which runs from 2001 to 2008 and will undergo a half-term evaluation this year. An in-house team and a group from outside will study it later this year. The strategy concentrated on getting heroin misusers into treatment. The number of those receiving methadone treatment exceeds the target set because communities cried out for substitute treatment. One hears fewer stories today about elderly people being mugged by people looking for their next fix. However, some of the 100 actions listed in the strategy have received more attention than others. The main drive has been to encourage people to take methadone. That scheme has been more or less ring-fenced, although there were objections from communities to it. There are a number of schemes.

Are general rehabilitation schemes and drug-free programmes getting enough resources? With 7,000 people on methadone, that is the kind of issue under discussion at present. The mid-term review of the strategy will give us an opportunity to look at that. Everyone agreed that getting addicts onto methadone was the way to go. Now that we have got there, I accept there is some validity in the argument that we should be looking at other more long-term measures. While methadone works for some people, it is not a long-term solution. The mid-term review will allow us to look for a solution to this problem.

Some 1,000 people remain on FÁS schemes. However, I accept we would benefit from more places. We get feedback on a continual basis from people but the mid-term review will provide a formal way to evaluate what we have done in recent years and examine if we should move in other directions.

April 26, 2004

Fine Gael call for nationwide extension of drug courts

Source:'Drug courts' : Irish Examiner, p. 6, 26 Apr 2004

Fine Gael’s drug spokesperson Fergus O’Dowd TD, has called for drug courts to be implemented all over the country. “The drug court offers a structured rehabilitation programme to addicts through regular drug testing, counselling, education and training over a 12-month period with a further follow-up over 12 months”, said Mr O’Dowd. Mr O’Dowd made his comments after the success of the pilot drug court in Dublin

Public support brings back drug court judge

Source:'Drug court judge returns because of public support' : Irish Times, p. 4, 26 Apr 2004

Mr Justice Gerard Haughton has withdrawn his resignation from the drug court after receiving widespread support from the public. Judge Haughton had originally resigned in protest against the Judicial Studies Institute (JSI) not to sanction his attendance at the Drug Court Professionals Conference in America. “The support I got from the participants and from many others throughout the country is part of the reason why I am back, and I am grateful for that support. I was amazed at the extent of the interest and the support for the Drug Court and the participants”, he said. After three years, the drug court has been seen as a success. “The first participant in the programme graduated two years ago this month. He was 32-years old when he came to the Drug Court. Between the age of 16 and 32 he had spent eight years in prison. Since he graduated he hasn’t re-offended and hasn’t relapsed. He is also working”, added Judge Haughton.

€1m worth of drugs seized so far this year

Source:'Drug seizures top €1m mark for year' : Irish Examiner, p. 7, 26 Apr 2004

Customs figures have shown that more than €1million worth of drugs has been seized at Ireland’s airports and ports so far this year. 435 separate seizures of illegal drugs have been made with a total weighing almost 178 kilos. “We’re still getting quite a lot of cocaine. It’s coming in fairly frequently”, said a spokesperson for the customs.

April 25, 2004

Cocaine use increasing in Cork

Source:'Coke use rocketing' : Sunday Mirror, p. 16, 25 Apr 2004

A conference in University College Cork organised by Merchants Quay Ireland has been told that there has been a dramatic rise in cocaine use in Cork City. The conference was also told that the government is failing to provide adequate detox facilities to treat substance users

April 24, 2004

Alcohol contributes to self-harm

Source:'Alcohol significant factor in self harm' : Limerick post, p. 15, 24 Apr 2004

The director of the Samaritans in Limerick, Mr John O’Riordan, has said that alcohol is a major contributing factor in parasuicide and suicide. “Two out of three people who attempt suicide have engaged in some sort of alcohol or substance abuse beforehand. When people are drunk their inhibitions are lower and they are not in full control. Therefore alcohol can encourage vulnerable people to harm themselves”, said Mr O’Riordan.

Tipperary GAA hosts alcohol seminars

Source:'GAA organises seminars on alcohol' : Tipperary Star, p. 3, 24 Apr 2004

The GAA in Tipperary is organising a series of information seminars in each of the 22 post-primary schools in the county, starting in September. People with medical and sporting backgrounds will talk about their experiences with alcohol and how it effects those playing sport on a regular basis, with sponsorship being provided by Allied Irish Banks of Tipperary. The programme will be officially launched on Thursday April 22nd at 8.00pm in the Tipperary Institute Conference Centre in Thurles. For more details, contact Tipperary County PRO Ed Donnelly at 087 2055642 or tipperarypro@gaa.ie

Aisling grouop may have to close within a week

Source:'Cash-strapped drugs group faces closure' : Weekender, p. 2, 24 Apr 2004

The Navan-based Aisling may have to close within the week as national funds dry up. Marie Byrne, national co-ordinator of the group, said that the closure would be due to ‘lack of support in this area from government services’. “Most of the time is spent out forms for funding instead of treating the people who need our help. I’m just tired of it all- how can we expected to carry on if there is no political will to support projects such as ours? I think at this stage, unless we find a millionaire somewhere, I would rather concentrate my energies in Australia where you’re supported by government service. I have to question why any allocations for drug prevention go to Cork and Dublin city but never down this way”, she added.

April 23, 2004

North Dublin has highest prevalence of drug use in Ireland

Source:'North Dublin tops drug taking charts' : Fingal Independent, p. 2, 23 Apr 2004

A recent study by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) and the Drug and Alcohol Information Research Unit (DAIRU) has shown that north Dublin has the highest prevalence of illicit drug use in the country. The Northern Area Health Board (NAHB) region, which includes Fingal, and for almost all drugs the area had the highest prevalence figures. A spokesperson for the NAHB said: “We cover a large urban area including the north inner city and it’s an area with a lot disadvantage in it. That goes some way to explaining the figures. We are aware of the problem and have a number of programmes in place to deal with it”. The survey found that almost 30% of those surveyed in the NAHB had taken an illicit drug at least once in their lives, compared with a national average of 19%.

Judge lambasted for linking HIV and cannabis

Source:'Judge’s linking of cannabis and HIV ‘ignorant’ ' : Irish Examiner, p. 3, 23 Apr 2004

A judge was criticised for linking the HIV virus and cannabis use. Judge William Harnett made his comments in a case involving cannabis supply. “Why there is a benign attitude to cannabis resin I do no know. People with HIV or those who die from AIDS all started by taking cannabis resin”, he said. Ann Nolan, executive director of Dublin AIDS Alliance was appalled by the comments: “I know plenty of people who have tested positive for HIV and have never taken an illicit drug in their life. People who use drugs pick up the HIV virus by sharing needles. It has nothing to do with cannabis use. These comments are indicative of the level of ignorance generally out there about HIV. It’s another label that people with HIV and AIDS don’t need. The remark is wholly unsubstantiated”, she said.

Fine Gael justice spokesperson Jim O’Keeffe also voiced his concern. “I am concerned that people in such public and prominent positions would make such statements which clearly are incorrect. Health professionals over the past decade have made huge efforts to educate people about HIV and AIDS. The government should ensure by training or otherwise that judges are fully briefed and informed on such important issues”, said Mr O’Keeffe.

Third of youths in NEHB area have tried drugs

Source:'Third of young adults in area admitted they had tried drugs' : The Argus, p. 4, 23 Apr 2004

The National Advisory Committee on Drugs report has shown that one third of young people in the North Eastern Health Board (NEHB) region have tried illicit drugs. Dr Nazih Eldin, regional drug co-ordinator of the NEHB has said that the survey confirmed that the drugs problem was a national one. “These findings confirm that drugs affect all communities, and the research is very important in addressing the drugs issue”, he said.

Euridice programme implemented in NEHB

Source:'Dealing with alcohol, tobacco and drugs dependence in workplace' : The Argus, p. 33, 23 Apr 2004

The North Eastern Health Board (NEHB) has become the first Irish workplace to implement the Euridice project, a programme that addresses the issue of workplace dependencies. The programme, piloted in Italy, is based on the concept that the workplace is a resource where issues of dependency can be addressed and aims to ensure staff are more aware of the issues, with the necessary confidence to deal with them, and thus are better geared towards helping themselves and others.

April 22, 2004

Centre 'can't cope with demand' for treatment places

(Source:'Drug treatment centre ‘can’t cope with demand’' : Irish Examiner, p. 10, 22 Apr 2004)

The Aiséirí treatment and care organisation, which operates in Tipperary, Wexford and Waterford, has said it cannot cope with the demand for treatment from a growing number of young people addicted to drugs and alcohol. The organisation’s founder, Sr Eileen Fahey, said there are not enough treatment places available; there is now a waiting list of over six weeks at its residential centres. She said the nature of addiction had changed greatly in the last decade, with an almost 50% increase in poly-addiction. The majority of those treated by Aiseiri are in their 20s and early 30s, and are engaged in ‘abnormal levels of drinking, complicated by a mix of drugs like hash and ecstasy and even more serious durgs.’ She also said that 10% of the clients at the Aiseiri centres were now addicted to internet gambling. Aiseiri has assisted over 5,000 addicts over a 21-year period and claims a 60% full recovery rate.

Irish team was to make main presentation at Drug Court conference

(Source:'Judge who quit was rostered to attend meeting' : Irish Tiimes, p. 2, 22 Apr 2004)

Judge Haughton, who resigned from the Drug court scheme on Tuesday, was scheduled, along with his team, to make the main presentation at the international conference of drug court professionals in Wisconsin. The Judicial Studies Institute (JSI) refused to sanction Judge Haughton’s five-day absence because of the extremely busy District Court list. The judge said yesterday that he was refused permission to attend only after he applied to the JSI for funding for the trip. He believed he had no choice but to resign the post because it was now clear that ‘neither I nor the Drug Court enjoy any support’. The Drug Court does not have a budget and relies on various departments within the education, medical and judicial systems to assign staff and resources to it. Judge William Early has been appointed to replace Judge Haughton

April 21, 2004

Refusal to sanction five-day absence leads to resignation by Drug Court judge

(Source:'Chief of Drug Court resigns over blocking of visit to USA' : Irish Independent, p. 3, 21 Apr 2004)

Judge Gerard Haughton, the head of Ireland’s only Drug Court, has resigned from the scheme because of the refusal to sanction his attendance at an international conference of Drug Court professionals in the US in June. Judge Haughton announced his decision yesterday, saying he had taken it with regret, but felt he was left with no alternative. The body responsible for sanctioning his attendance, the Judicial Studies Institute (JSI) representing the court presidents of the four tiers of justice, said that it was unable to free up a judge for five days because of the ‘extremely busy’ District Court lists. The Drug Court, modelled on a similar scheme in America, was established in January 2001 and marked a radical change in how the legal system dealt with non-violent drug offenders. Such offenders could opt to take part in the Drug Court and were given the choice of a tough rehabilitation programme or a jail sentence. The scheme involves a team of professionals who monitored participants’ adherence to the rehabilitation programme and has achieved some success. A recent independent evaluation led to approval for its extension.

Success of Drug Court scheme owes much to Judge Haughton

(Source:'Judge ‘driving force’ behind highly successful and innovative scheme' : Irish Independent, p. 3, 21 Apr 2004)

Judge Haughton was an enthusiastic advocate of an innovative approach to dealing with offenders who appear repeatedly before the courts on drug-related charges. He was the driving force behind the establishment of the Drug Court scheme and headed its operation in addition to his normal workload in the District Court. The success of the scheme drew the interest of several delegations from the justice departments in other European countries who came to see it in operation. Judge Haughton was known to be tough but fair by those who opted for the Drug Court. Those who tried to abuse the rehabilitation regime were firmly dealt with by an imposed prison sentence. It is acknowledged that it may not be easy to find someone to replace Judge Haughton, though Court sources said that a number of replacement judges were being considered. Ireland has the lowest number of judges per head of population in the western world.

TD warns that we ‘ignore heroin at our peril’

Source:'Wake up and smell the poppies' : Southside People, p. 6, 21 Apr 2004

Eoin Ryan, Fianna Fail TD, has warned that Europe is ignoring the peril of Afghanistan’s heroin production at its peril. “The international community will ignore at its peril the warning from a United Nations Development Programme Report that Afghanistan is reverting to an economy entirely based on drugs and is a breeding ground for terrorism. Iraq is receiving ten times as much development aid and has roughly the same population. Meanwhile there has been a twenty fold increase in the production of heroin and some intelligence sources estimate that Al-Qaeda receives around 48 million dollars from drug trafficking”, he said.

Success of Drug Court scheme owes much to Judge Haughton

Source:'Judge ‘driving force’ behind highly successful and innovative scheme' : Irish Independent, p. 3, 21 Apr 2004

Judge Haughton was an enthusiastic advocate of an innovative approach to dealing with offenders who appear repeatedly before the courts on drug-related charges. He was the driving force behind the establishment of the Drug Court scheme and headed its operation in addition to his normal workload in the District Court. The success of the scheme drew the interest of several delegations from the justice departments in other European countries who came to see it in operation. Judge Haughton was known to be tough but fair by those who opted for the Drug Court. Those who tried to abuse the rehabilitation regime were firmly dealt with by an imposed prison sentence. It is acknowledged that it may not be easy to find someone to replace Judge Haughton, though Court sources said that a number of replacement judges were being considered. Ireland has the lowest number of judges per head of population in the western world.

Citywide says government must learn from heroin epidemic in order to fight increasing cocaine use

Source:'Heroin lessons not learned in cocaine war' : Northside People East, p. 4, 21 Apr 2004

A recent survey conducted by Citywide has shown that 25 out of 27 projects that combat drug use have clients reporting for cocaine use. Ana Quigley, co-ordinator of Citywide has said that the government should not let the cocaine problem escalate to the levels of heroin use and that lessons must be learned from dealing with heroin in Ireland. “People in local communities should ask questions of all their local election candidates about their party’s commitment to dealing with this issue. The survey findings illustrate the significant levels of availability and use of cocaine right across Dublin city and indicate some of the consequences for users, projects, families and communities”, said Ms Quigley. “The survey clearly shows that community drug projects are already trying to respond to the problem, as community projects have always tried to respond to the reality of what is happening on the ground. Some 80 per cent of the projects are attempting to provide some level of service for cocaine users and this is placing huge pressure on existing services, already affected by cutbacks. They have clearly identified the need for more training and resources and these must be made available immediately”, she added.

Citywide launch family support handbook

Source:'Families get a hand on drug abuse' : Northside People East, p. 4, 21 Apr 2004

Citywide Family Support Network have released a handbook for families dealing with drug abuse. The handbook was launched in the Mansion House and was attended by Lord Mayor Royston Brady. Citywide was set up in 1995 to bring together people in the most disadvantaged communities across Dublin city who are dealing with the devastating impact if drug abuse. The handbook will provide contact details of existing family support groups and services. Citywide can be contacted at 01 8365090 or 01 8365039 and is also available for consulation in the National Documentation Centre on Drug Use.

April 20, 2004

Range of drugs widely used across the State

(Source:'Use of illegal drugs is a State-wide problem' : Irish Times Health Supplement, p. 5, 20 Apr 2004)

An all-Ireland drug prevalence survey, the first to examine the full extent and nature of Ireland’s drug problem, has revealed that 19 per cent of people in the Republic aged between 15 and 64 have tried illegal drugs. The research was carried out by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) and the Drug and Alcohol Information and Research Unit (DAIRU) in Northern Ireland. The survey confirms that virtually every region in the country is affected to some degree by all illicit drugs on the market. Consumption is highest in the Eastern Regional Health Authority (ERHA) area, where 27 per cent of those surveyed said they had taken an illegal drug at some point in their life; next highest was the North Eastern Health Board, with a figure of 19 per cent. Cocaine is prevalent in all health boards except the North Western, and has outstripped ecstasy in some regions. Use of crack cocaine was reported in all but three of the health board areas, with similar trends for heroin use. Cannabis was used by almost 18 per cent of respondents across the State. While the lifetime prevalence rate was 19 per cent, figures were lower for reported illicit drug use in the previous year (5.6%) and in the previous month (3%). The profile of drug users was similar across the country; users were generally young, with more male than female users.

This report can be accessed on the NACD website at http://www.nacd.ie/all.html

All-Ireland survey examines trends in drug and alcohol use

(Source:'Lethal drug cocktails are popular on both sides of the Border' : Irish Times Health Supplement, p. 5, 20 Apr 2004)

Over the past two decades, Ireland’s drug policy has been concentrated on the heroin problem in Dublin. Evidence from those working in the area suggests that the use of heroin is now becoming more common outside Dublin and that the use of other drugs, including alcohol, is on the increase. The publication yesterday of a population-based survey shows local patterns of drug consumption in Ireland north and south. The new figures show important differences between the Republic and the North: illicit drug use is marginally higher in the North but alcohol use is considerably higher in the Republic; rates of tranquilliser and sedative use are almost twice as high in the North. A feature of drug use is that most users will take a cocktail of drugs, often including alcohol. In Northern Ireland, alcohol and drugs services are being reviewed together, something which has not happened to date in the Republic. The figures released in this report will be of great benefit to the ten regional drugs task forces set up to provide a regionally based response to problem drug use.

This report can be accessed on the NACD website at http://www.nacd.ie/all.html

Courts will be tough on drugs and firearms offenders

(Source:'Law will be tough on drug dealers' : Irish Independent, p. 7, 20 Apr 2004)

Justice Minister Michael McDowell, speaking at a seminar organised by the Blanchardstown Local Drugs Task Force, said that Gardai were winning the war on drugs, with an increase in the number of drug seizures. He warned that the full force of the law, particularly in relation to sentencing, would be brought to bear on those engaged in the drugs and firearms trade.

Evidence of link between cocaine use and heart attack

(Source:'How cocaine can damage the heart' : Irish Examiner, p. 7, 20 Apr 2004)

The first large-scale study to examine the link between cocaine use and damage to the heart was conducted in 1999 at the Institute for Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in Boston. The drug is known to raise levels of certain neurotransmitters which increase heart rate, ventricular contraction, and the heart’s demand for oxygen. The study identified 38 cocaine users who had suffered heart attacks; of these, 29 had no prior symptoms of hear disease, and their average age was only 44 years – 17 years younger than the average heart attack patient. Nine reported using cocaine within 60 minutes before their attack. Later research from the University of Buffalo New York suggested that regular cocaine use might be responsible for a quarter of non-fatal heart attacks among people under the age of 45 in the US.

April 19, 2004

NACD release Health Board prevalence study

(Source:'NACD release Health Board prevalence study' : Irish Times, p. 1, 19 Apr 2004)
A new report by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) released today will give prevalence figures by Health Board region. The report will be officially launched in Dundalk by Mr Noel Ahern, Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, which has responsibility for the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy. The all-Ireland study was carried out by the NACD and the Drug and Alcohol Information and Research Unit in Northern Ireland and today’s launch will focus on prevalence figures for each health board region.

Minister praises volunteers

Source:'Volunteers praised for youth work' : Irish Independent, p. 7, 19 Apr 2004

Health Minister Michael Martin praised the contribution of volunteer workers in assisting young people in avoiding the abuse of alcohol, drugs and crime. Minister Martin made the comments at the 2004 National Youth Awards in Cork’s Silversprings Hotel and he paid tribute to the No Name Club for providing a safe environment for the youth of Ireland.

Scientific findings show dangers of ecstasy use

Source:'Reports highlight dangers for ‘Ecstasy’ users' : Irish Independent, p. 16, 19 Apr 2004

Three separate studies have confirmed that dangers of ecstasy use. All three were unveiled at a scientific conference in Britain at the weekend. The drug was blamed for mental health problems, long-term sleep disturbance and for encouraging psychological dependence. Ecstasy users were three times more likely to suffer from disturbed sleep than non-users, with former users still reporting difficulty sleeping even in some cases, years after they had last taken the drug. The appeal of the drug waned after two years, a further study showed, but despite this users continued taking the substance.

NACD release Health Board prevalence study

Source:'NACD release Health Board prevalence study' : Irish Times, p. 1, 19 Apr 2004

A new report by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) released today will give prevalence figures by Health Board region. The report will be officially launched in Dundalk by Mr Noel Ahern, Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, which has responsibility for the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy. The all-Ireland study was carried out by the NACD and the Drug and Alcohol Information and Research Unit in Northern Ireland and today’s launch will focus on prevalence figures for each health board region.

New device to curb drink-spiking

Source:'Device targets drink-spiking' : BBC News online 19 Apr 2004

A new device called the ‘Spika Stoppa’ has been launched in south Wales. The device fits into the neck of a bottle and allows a straw to be inserted for drinking while making it difficult for drugs to be placed in the drink. Rob Bresenton and Gary Daniles of DR Tool and Jigwork designed the anti-spiking device after a friend of Mr Bresenton’s daughter was a victim of drink-spiking. “As a father I was naturally concerned when I heard that a friend of my daughter had her drink spiked. So I decided to come up with a device that would make it very difficult for people to slip drugs into unguarded bottles”, said Mr Bresenton. Drugs such as GHB and Rohypnol are odourless, colourless and tasteless and can be added to drugs and incapacitate victims, leaving them with little memory of what happened.

Prisoners' views of injecting drug use and harm reduction in Irish prisons

Prisoners' views of injecting drug use and harm reduction in Irish prisons
International Journal of Drug Policy 15 (2): 139-149
Jean Long , Shane Allwright, and Cecily Begley
Full Text

April 18, 2004

Publicans undergo drugs training

Source:'Bar staff take drug and alcohol awareness training' : Sunday Independent Business, p. 9, 18 Apr 2004

A course developed by the Southern Health Board (SHB) and funded by the Cork Local Drugs Task Force has planned at increasing awareness of drug and alcohol problems among publicans, security and bar staff. The Cork Club alcohol and drugs awareness training programme trained club staff to deal with injuries sustained in pubs and clubs and the warning signs of alcohol/ drug misuse. CPR training was also offered to all the participants. “The aim of the course is to educate and inform those working in a pub/ club environment about the negative effects of drug and alcohol misuse. The format of the course was developed having consulted with the local publicans about what they felt would be benefit their staff and enable them to better deal with issues around drug and alcohol misuse”, said Sharon McGillacuddy, SHB health promotion officer.

Dublin Garda numbers lower than much of country

Source:'Dublin’s Garda numbers shock as presence is double elsewhere' : Irish Daily Star Sunday, p. 24, 18 Apr 2004

Despite having the highest incidence of crime in Ireland, Dublin has fewer Gardai than per person than other parts of the country, it has emerged. People living in Cavan and Monaghan have one garda on the beat for every 284 citizens, whereas there are one garda for every 314 in the capital. In 2003 neither Cavan or Monaghan reported a murder whereas 24 murders were reported in Dublin in the same year. Labour’s Justice spokesperson Joe Costello said: “When you think of the whole country and the public order, gangland and drug problems that we have, the amount of gardai on the beat is tiny”.

Pros and Cons of Ecstasy Use

Ecstasy users are generally aware of the health risks that they expose themselves to but seem to reject this knowledge in favour of the benefits they experience from taking the drug.
Read More
Author: Douglas Brown, Press Officer, tel. 0116 252 9500 (work), 07793 800369 (mobile) or Sharon Smart, Assistant Press Officer, tel. 0116 252 9500 (work), tel. 07793 800368 (mobile). DURING THE CONFERENCE (15-17 APRIL 2004) CONTACT: The conference press office, Imperial College, London tel. 0207 594 9502 or 0207 594 1001 or either of the above mobile numbers.

April 17, 2004

Increase in gun crime linked to drugs trade

Source:'Armed crime soars as drug gangs bring in more guns' : Irish Independent, p. 1, 17 Apr 2004

Garda statistics have shown that in the last 12 months have been linked with the drug trade and a fall-out from three decades of paramilitary activity. “The rise of 59% in the discharge of firearms in the first quarter might have been viewed as a blip, if taken on its own, but the figures for the past year, showing a rise of 17% in that category is a worrying trend”, said Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell. Guns are often included as “sweeteners”” in drug shipments with Mr McDowell expected to introduce new firearms legislation to combat the increase. Overall though crime figures fell from 27,345 offences in the first quarter of last year compared with 25,572 for the same period this year, a fall of 6.5%.

Athlone ‘can’t be complacent’ on drugs issue

Source:'Booming economy hid social disadvantage and rising crime' : Westmeath Independent, p. 12, 17 Apr 2004

Labour’s Denis Rohan has said that Athlone, like other urban parts of Ireland, cannot afford to be complacent on drugs. “All urban areas of the country, including Athlone, are being confronted by the growing menace of illegal drugs. We can’t be complacent on this problem. We owe it our young children and the next generation to ensure that drugs don’t take hold in our communities”, he said. Mr Rohan said that the Celtic Tiger was not helping all sections of the community. “The Celtic Tiger is not helping large sections of the community, our unemployed, unwaged and the elderly. There is still a very large poverty trap and while those out of work have dropped, those without jobs are being left behind to fend for themselves”, he said.

Foróige policy on drugs released

Source:'Offaly Foróige leaders look ahead with new handbook' : Offaly Independent, p. 11, 17 Apr 2004

Foróige has launched a policy and guidelines document on tobacco, alcohol and drugs. The handbook is intended for Foróige leaders and will be used in preventing drug-related harm among Foróige members. Fiona O’Connor, Foróige Project Officer on Drugs Misuse Prevention said she hoped leaders of the organisation would use it regularly. “We want it to be very much a real document”, she said. The handbook fits in with the National Council of Foróige Policy statement, “working with the context of the philosophy and purpose of the organisation, staff and leaders will seek to prevent drug related harm among all young people involved in Foróige’s work”.

Copies of the guidelines are available for consultation in the National Documentation Centre on Drug Use.

April 16, 2004

Panic attacks can result from drug use

Source:'When panic attacks' : Irish Daily Star, p. 6, 16 Apr 2004

Dr Aine Turbidy, founder of the first Irish support group for sufferers of Panic Disorder (PD) has said that drug use can lead to panic attacks. “There are a number of young people suffering panic attacks from smoking joints or taking ecstasy tablets who have no one to talk to “, she said. Experts say that habitual panic attacks no affect at least one in ten women in Ireland. Symptoms of an attack include an intense fear or apprehension, palpitations, trembling, breathing difficulties, dizziness and sweating- with most sufferers recalling the attack as an intense fear of losing control. PD can be cause by a number of factors such as prolonged stress and psychological trauma, as well as drug use.

Reformed addicts should get priority housing

Source:'Houses for reformed addicts urged' : Irish Examiner, p. 7, 16 Apr 2004

Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI) director Tony Geoghegan has said that without and integrated approach to homelessness and drug use the cycle of abuse would continue. “If drug users have sobered up, but can’t get somewhere to live they end up back up on the streets injecting again. Likewise if a person with a drug or alcohol problem secures housing, it will not last long unless their addiction is also tackled”, he said. These comments came at a conference hosted by MQI in University College Cork. Statistics from the National Advisory Council on Drugs showed that 28% of people becoming homeless was drug related. “Up until now homelessness and drug use have been tackled separately and unless our approaches are co-ordinated to deal with the contentious issues we are going to fail”, added Mr Geoghegan.

Shackled addicts detox in India

Source:'Tough love and chains for Indian drug addicts' : Irish Times, p. 12, 16 Apr 2004

In a Gamnuam Christian Home in Chura Chandpur, in Manipur State on the Indian/ Burmese border an unorthodox detoxification centre battles against the state with India’s worst heroin problems. In a recent survey it is estimated that 67% of the regular heroin users are 11- year old children, who also double as drug couriers. This massive problem is being countered by parents who send their children to Pavkholian Dousel, a church elder, who shackles the drug users with heavy padlocks and thick manacles. “Their desperation makes them crafty and they can open ordinary padlocks in order to run away and to begin taking drugs again. If they escape, I become answerable to their parents who insist I keep their sons chained and captive until the kick their drug taking habit and become clean again”, said Mr Dousel. One inmate reveals the regime: “It was painful and humiliating when I was first manacled and all I wanted to do was escape. But after six months, as I stayed off drugs and began feeling better, things changed emotionally, spiritually and physically. Now I feel complete again”, said Pau Siamal, who was an inmate for three years. Human rights groups have filed cases against Dousel and his methods of detoxification, but the inmate’s parents have rallied around the cleric, paying lawyers to defend him. The cases are still pending.

McDowell announces serious crime fell by 6% in first three months of 2004

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr. Michael McDowell, T.D., today published the provisional crime statistics furnished by the Garda Commissioner for the first three months of 2004. The statistics show a decrease of 6% for the quarter compared with the same quarter in 2003. The Minister also published the statistics for the twelve month period ending on 31 March which show a cumulative decrease of 2%.

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April 15, 2004

Drug company developing anti-smoking and drinking patch

Source:'Patch up your bad habits ' : Irish Times, p. 13, 15 Apr 2004

Elan Pharmaceuticals is developing a patch that will curb cravings for both alcohol and nicotine. The details of the revolutionary patch will be revealed next Monday in Chemistry and Industry. “We have observed that mecamylamine, administered in combination with a nicotine patch, reduced alcohol consumption in light drinkers. We hope that it can also help heavy drinkers to cut down, but studies need to be rigorously conducted to evaluate the possibility”, said Dr Jed Rose, who is working with Elan in developing the patch. Mecamylamine interferes with dopamine receptors in the brain, which are involved with pleasure sensation and linked with the effects of drugs such as alcohol, nicotine and cocaine.

Effectiveness of mandatory sentencing questioned

Source:'Will prison policy be a failure?' : Athlone Topic, p. 2, 15 Apr 2004

Government plans to fully implement mandatory sentencing has been severely criticised as ‘recycled U.S. policy failures of 20 years ago’. The criticism came from the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT), with a spokesperson commenting: “The Irish criminal justice system including the prison service is in need of fundamental reform, of that there is no doubt. The fact that the best the Government has to offer is the recycled U.S. policy failures of 20 years ago speaks volumes about their lack of coherent vision to meet those challenges, as well as their willingness to place ideology before evidence, electioneering before effectiveness”. The IPRT says that the Minister must prove that mandatory sentencing is effective, despite evidence from the US, where states are now repealing mandatory sentencing due to their failure in reducing crime and the mounting cost of expanding prison populations

April 14, 2004

Child finds drugs ‘works’ in major fast food chain

Source:'SmackDonald’s' : The Sun, p. 25, 14 Apr 2004


A child’s fourth birthday party ended with the celebrant being rushed to hospital after finding heroin ‘works’ in the toilet. Connor Moore found a box with used syringes, needles and lighters and brought it back to his birthday party, which was being held in a McDonald’s restaurant in Coventry. After scratching himself on the box containing the drug paraphernalia, Connor was rushed to hospital for tests. His father, Kris, was furious. “Connor went to the toilet and came back with all this drugs paraphernalia. He had no idea what it was and touched it all. We are waiting on a blood test to check he’s not been infected by it. You expect a massive firm like McDonald’s to keep undesirables from shooting up in their loos. I called over the manager and went mad asking why the toilets had not been checked. He said it was a city centre and it was hard to keep druggies out. McDonald’s have offered me £15 worth of vouchers or a free party. I told them to stuff it an put it towards a security man to keep a check on the place”. The restaurant is investigating the incident.

Dutch move to ban powerful forms of cannabis

Source:'Netherlands moves to outlaw superstrong ‘skunk’ cannabis ' : Times online 14 Apr 2004

The sale of ‘skunk’, the most powerful form of cannabis may become outlawed, as it is believed the drug has become too strong. Tests have shown that the levels of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC in the drug have almost doubled from 9% in 1999 to 15% in 2004. THC is the psychologically active component of cannabis. The Dutch cabinet commissioned research to assess the dangers of skunk and will propose legislation if the drug is deemed to be dangerous. According to the Trimbos Institute, a drug research institute that monitors cannabis sale for the Dutch Health Ministry said: “It has almost doubles in strength but we don’t know what the effect on public health is”. Plans are also being mooted for limiting cannabis for Dutch people only to limit the amount of ‘cannabis tourism’ the country receives each year.

COCAD demands mandatory sentencing

Source:'Anger as drug dealer gets off ‘light’' : Northside People West, p. 23, 14 Apr 2004

National Secretary of the Coalition of Communities Against Drugs (COCAD), Cieran Perry has agreed with Tony Gregory TD that mandatory sentencing for drug dealing must be enforced. “Barely a day goes by without a huge Garda seizure of illegal drugs, bit once cases come to court the average sentences works out at four to five years. With suspensions and temporary releases the pusher will be out of jail in half that time”, he said. A law was passed in 1999 whereby those convicted of possession of drug worth €12,700 or more would be subject to a mandatory 10-year sentence. Mr Perry added: “A clear message is being sent out that drug dealing is not viewed seriously in Irish courtrooms”.

Tribunal money could be used to tackle substance misuse

Source:'Tribunal money ‘could tackle drink and drugs issues’ ' : Irish Examiner, p. 5, 14 Apr 2004

Pat Cahill, president of the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI), has said that money used on tribunals could be used to tackle growing substance abuse in Ireland. “A daily diet from the tribunals shows the enormous sums of money that were made in this country over the last few years and who got that money”, he said. “If a fraction of the money from the present tribunals seek to trace were to be spent on education, perhaps the problems of binge drinking and drug taking could be more effectively tackled tackled”, he added.

Calls for taxi monitoring

Source:'Trafficking in death' : Northside People West, p. 22, 14 Apr 2004

Eoin Ryan TD, chairman of the Dáil Transport Committee has called for tight monitoring of taxis to ensure passenger safety and the eradication of taxis being used to smuggle drugs. “I understand several convictions for drug related offences by taxi drivers have been secured in the courts and further cases are pending. Gardai have confirmed drugs seizures from taxi-cabs occur and that there has been a large increase in the number of taxi-drivers operating in the city with drug related conviction”, said Deputy Ryan. “Passenger safety is at risk. With more than 10,000 taxis now operating in Dublin since deregulation, criminals operating in the industry and entering into it, is a fact of life. Gardai say one in seven applicants have criminal convictions”, he added. Deputy Ryan said that extensive monitoring was the key. “Taxis can provide the ideal cover for dealers and drug peddlers and this is why I believe the widespread instillation of satellite operated CCTV camera in taxi cabs is needed. As chairman of the Dáil Transport Committee, I am determined to bring this issue firmly into the public domain through a committee hearing in order to investigate the extent of criminal activity, particularly drug trafficking, in the taxi industry”, he said.

MEPs call for decriminalisation

Source:'FF in attack on Greens over ‘pro-drugs policy’' : Irish Independent, p. 9, 14 Apr 2004

Fianna Fail accused the Green party as being pro-drugs in an angry dispute which began over the Green’s campaign against childhood obesity. Fianna Fail councillor Chris Andrews said that the Green Party could see no contradiction between their anti-fat campaign and their pro-drugs policy, which he claimed would see soft drugs “sold by chemists to any adult who wants to buy them”. Green MEP Patricia McKenna reacted angrily: “Fianna Fail wheel out this every election time. They are being simplistic about serious recommendations which have the support of international police forces. We have been looking for a rethink on how drugs are dealt with by society. Right now the crime culture surrounding drugs is allowing mafia gangs to make millions”. The recommendations signed by 108 MEPS called for the “repeal of the prohibition of drugs in EU member-states”, and this measure would be put to a convention on drugs in Vienna later this month when European drug policy will be reviewed.

Former GAA chief criticises alcohol industry and ‘drink culture’

Source:'Alcohol culture criticised by former GAA head' : Irish Times, p. 7, 14 Apr 2004

Dr Mick Loftus, former president of the GAA and coroner of North Mayo has criticised an alcohol culture promoted by the drinks industry. “Alcohol use by young people poses serious health issues to bodies and minds that are still maturing. In a cunning and cynical way, drink companies use festival and sports events to generate good will and promote their public image. These shrewd and uncaring drink firms have coldly calculated that this will bring them increased sales and still more money, and a hideous aspect of the advertising is that just now they have begun to call for ‘responsible drinking’. What a gross abuse of language. There are 100,000 alcoholics in Ireland, each affecting at least four people. The problems for families are immense. The misery, the poor prospects, the sense of loss, and yet 60% problems are by moderate drinkers”, he said. Dr Loftus made his comments at the ASTI conference at Killarney.

Hepatitis C threat to Dublin’s heroin users

Source:'Infection explosion' : Southside People, p. 1, 14 Apr 2004

Research by Merchants Quay Ireland has shown that 87% of women tested had hepatitis C antibodies in their bloodstream and it is estimated that thousands of Dublin’s injecting drug users have the virus. The disease can cause cirrhosis of the liver and can in some cases lead to death. Dublin has a higher rate of infection than other European cities leading some experts to blame Governmental practices that banned needle exchange. “Our research only serves to confirm what many other researchers have been finding for some years now, that the rate of infection has reached epidemic proportions amongst drug users in Ireland”, said Tony Geoghegan, director of Merchants Quay. “We need a major public education programme targeted at drug users, we need more extensive needle exchange services that provide advice and support in minimising the risk of contracting hepatitis C and we need to consider injecting facilities, particularly targeted at homeless drug users”, he added.

April 13, 2004

No justification for increased prison capacity

Source:'Difficult to see justification for increasing prison places' : Irish Times, p. 12, 12 Apr 2004

The assumption to believe that prisons reduce crime is misplaced writes Dr Ian O’Donnell of the Institute of Criminology at University College Dublin in the Irish Times. Commenting on the provision of mandatory sentencing Dr O’Donnell said that the severity of the punishment plays less on a potential offender’s mind then the chances of being caught and that when the chances of the latter are slim, the former is seen as largely irrelevant. In response to the pending increase in prison places he feels that a rising prison population, if linked to increased crime, is inevitable, but to make it a policy in the face of modest crime levels in Ireland is illogical. He finally calls on Minister McDowell to stabilise and then reduce the prison population, not increase it.

ASTI reveal growing school substance problem

Source:'School drugs plague revealed' : Irish Daily Star, p. 12 13 Apr 2004

The Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI) has called on the Departments of Education, Health, Justice and Finance to rally together to fight substance misuse among school children. ASTI President Pat Cahill said that drinking and drug use among students was common and that parents had a role to play in tackling this problem. “I have spoke to matrons in hospitals who say that parents who come in to collect their children don’t even realise that their kids have been drinking- despite having their stomachs pumped out in the hospitals”, he said. Mr Cahill added: “There is not a school in the country that does not have a problem. They may not admit it because they are in competition in a local area for students”.

Report calls for more treatment in SHB

Source:'‘More addiction services needed’' : Irish Medical News, p. 14, 13 Apr 2004

A new Southern Health Board (SHB) report has called for a significant increase in drug and alcohol services. The Committee on Prevention and Treatment of Drug and Alcohol Abuse has suggested that the SHB should provide more localised treatment centres and has approved additional treatment services in Kerry and Cork. The main recommendations of the group are that further study on the effect of smoking, alcohol and drug use be undertaken and that the health promotion strategy on drugs and alcohol be implemented. It also calls for the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy and the encouragement of ‘at risk’ groups to participate in sports

April 12, 2004

Unsafe sex leads to huge rise of STDs in Ireland

Source:'Reckless-sex Irish carry on regardless' : Evening Herald, p. 14, 12 Apr 2004

Doctors have warned that STDs are on the rise in Ireland due to unsafe sex practices. Syphilis, once thought to be near extinction, has risen from 46 cases in 2000 to 279 in 2001. More than 10,000 STDs are notified to the public health authorities every year, including chlamydia, gonorrhoea, hepatitis and HIV.

International drug smuggling operation uncovered

Source:'Smuggling ring bust' : The Sun, p. 17, 12 Apr 2004

Police in Britain, Germany and Holland successfully smashed an international drugs ring, with a lorry with an estimated €30 million worth of heroin intercepted outside Munich in Germany. The lorry was destined for the UK and four suspects linked with the haul were later arrested at two London airports. A source from Britain’s elite Crime squad was elated at the operation’s success. “We think we’ve got the ones who matter. A very significant network has been badly disrupted”.

April 11, 2004

Smoking fine much greater than those for drug possession

Source:'Now it’s cheaper to take drugs than to smoke in a pub' : Ireland on Sunday, p. 31, 11 Apr 2004

Smokers who are caught smoking in a workplace currently face a fine of €3000 whereas possession of enough cannabis to make a single joint results in a €381 fine under current legislation. Possession of small amounts of speed, cocaine and heroin incur a fine of not greater than €1,270 and a prison sentence not exceeding 12 months. Opposition parties have been quick to point out this discrepancy to the Government. “I think it’s ridiculous and unbalanced that fines are higher for being caught smoking a legal drug in the workplace than for being caught with an illegal one. The balance of evidence proves that smoking is far less dangerous for your health than cigarettes and scientists say it leads to harder drugs. I’ve never heard that smoking cigarettes leads to heroin”, said Dan Neville, Fine Gael’s deputy health spokesman.

Irish police force seventh largest in world

Source:'Top cop numbers can’t stop crime wave' : Irish Daily Star Sunday, p. 26, 11 Apr 2004

Ireland currently has one police officer per 323 people, making it the seventh most policed country in the industrial world, but plans by the Minister for Justice Michael McDowell to increase the Gardai by the creation of 14,000 new posts will elevate Ireland to fifth place in the world with one office per 277 people. However the plans have been criticised, as many of these new Gardai will be confined to desk jobs that could be carried out by civilians. One Department of Justice source said: “There are too many highly trained Gardai involved in drudgery and deskwork. It’s office work for people who have been trained as police at enormous expense to the taxpayer”. Labour Justice spokesman Joe Costello said: “When you think of the whole country and the public order, gangland and drug problems that we have- the amount of Gardai on the beat is tiny. It’s actually a very thin blue line that is actually doing real police business. Any post that can be civilianised should be civilianised. There should be no Gardai behind the scenes doing office work. That type of work can be done without training in Templemore. It’s a waste of Garda resources and would be run more efficiently by specially trained staff”.

April 10, 2004

Meath councillors propose measures to curb substance problems

Source:'Colrs. Deplore shocking cases of alcohol abuse by youngsters' : Meath Chronicle, p. 3, 10 Apr 2004

Meath County councillors met in April to discuss methods of curbing the county’s drug and alcohol abuse crisis on Monday. Suggestions included the outlawing the sale of alcopops, more extensive working in local housing estates to tackle the drugs problem on the ground and greater parental discipline. Curtailment of part-time work by young people to reduce the amount of money available to adolescents to spend on alcohol and drugs was also mooted. The chairperson of the North Eastern regional Drugs Task Force, Mr Pat Shields and the task force interim co-ordinator Dr Nazih Eldin encouraged councillors to participate in the promotion of a regional drugs strategy to tackle drug misuse in the north-east.

April 09, 2004

Call for security for GPs

Source:'Call for fund to hire bodyguards' : Irish Medical Times, p. 1, 09 Apr 2004

Dr Austin O’Carroll, a Dublin GP, has called for funding to hire security staff for GPs working in socially disadvantaged areas of Dublin. Dr O’Carroll called for funding and special guidelines when dealing with patients who are on methadone or other addiction treatments. “Support systems should be in place, maybe even finding for bodyguards”, he said. Due to this perceived threat Dr O’Carroll said that not all GPs were involved in the Methadone Treatment Protocol. “The other danger is that few GPs are doing this when we all should”, he said. Currently at least on inner-city practice in Dublin is vacant due to perceived threats to GPs working there.

Irish jail population will be fourth highest in EU

Source:'Ireland to have fourth largest jail population in EU' : Irish Examiner, p. 9, 09 Apr 2004

The Irish jail population will grow to become the fourth highest in the EU if Justice Minister Michael McDowell continues with his plan to increase incarceration places by a third. Currently Ireland has 85 prisoners per 100,000 people, below the EU average of 100. When facilities increase, Ireland will have a projected prison population of 110 per 100,000 people, with only Britain, Spain and Portugal having a larger proportion of prisoners. According to the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) these plans are shortsighted and that increasing prison places has been shown to be “a dismal failure” across the world. Rick Lines, IPRT director, said that many states in the United States are currently revising this policy as it has no effect on crime rates.

Regional drugs task force for North West

Source:'New drugs strategy for North-West region' : Longford Leader, p. 20, 09 Apr 2004

The formation of a new Regional Drugs Task Force for the North-West has been announced by the North Western Health Board. The task force will consist of representatives from Government agencies, voluntary organisations and community groups who will work together in partnership to research, develop, implement and monitor a co-ordinated response to drug use in the area. The task force will spend a year drawing up its action plan which will then be submitted to the National Drug Team and will be considered in 2005. The task force will requesting submissions from relevant groups in preparation of its action plan.

April 08, 2004

More detailed data on hepatitis is needed

(Source:'‘Better data on hepatitis profile is needed’' : Irish Medical News, p. 8, 06 Apr 2004)

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) believes that an improved system of recording information on hepatitis C should be introduced which would record specific details of risk factors of each patient. Data on prevalence of hepatitis has been difficult to compile and when cases are identified, compliance with treatment can be difficult to monitor, it said. An article in the current edition of Drugnet Ireland, the newsletter of the Drug Misuse Research Division of the Health Research Board, notes the low level of reporting of hepatitis C in Ireland. Although it is now a notifiable disease, information is still lacking on specific risk populations such as injecting drug users. The article also points out that the only published data on compliance with treatment for hepatitis C is a small on-site pilot study by Dr Shay Keating at the Drug Treatment Centre Board in conjunction with St James’s Hospital. Dr Keating said that centres providing hepatitis C treatment required referral pathways to specialist hepatology and psychiatric care. He said delivery of hepatitis C treatment in methadone clinics is effective as it improves patient compliance and permits a rapid response to incidences of illicit drug use and psychiatric illness.

Inner city GPs fear for their safety

(Source:'Health boards urged to get bodyguards for inner-city GPs' : Irish Independent, p. 4, 08 Apr 2004)

Doctors have called on health authorities to fund bodyguards and security measures to allow family GPs to work in deprived areas of Dublin. Dr Austin Carroll, a GP in the north inner city, said some doctors are afraid to work in these areas because of the risk of violence. A Pearse Street GP, Dr. Niall O’Cleirigh, said the main threat comes from drug addicts on methadone treatment, who have physically and verbally assaulted doctors and staff, often as a result of becoming destabilised. He said that while doctors may already have panic buttons and be hooked up to security systems, it may be possible to hire security guards or install CCTV cameras if the health boards make funding available. At least one inner-city practice is now vacant because of a lack of security and fears among doctors for their safety, according to the Irish Medical Times. These fears are particularly felt by doctors new to the methadone treatment services, and there are still not enough doctors volunteering to treat addicted patients. About 5,000 addicts are now getting methadone treatment, but there are still waiting lists. Meanwhile, a new survey from the Citywide Drugs Crisis Campaign found that cocaine is widely available across the country; 27 community drug projects are seeing clients who are using cocaine. .

Inner city GPs fear for their safety

Source:'Health boards urged to get bodyguards for inner-city GPs' : Irish Independent, p. 4, 08 Apr 2004

Doctors have called on health authorities to fund bodyguards and security measures to allow family GPs to work in deprived areas of Dublin. Dr Austin Carroll, a GP in the north inner city, said some doctors are afraid to work in these areas because of the risk of violence. A Pearse Street GP, Dr. Niall O’Cleirigh, said the main threat comes from drug addicts on methadone treatment, who have physically and verbally assaulted doctors and staff, often as a result of becoming destabilised. He said that while doctors may already have panic buttons and be hooked up to security systems, it may be possible to hire security guards or install CCTV cameras if the health boards make funding available. At least one inner-city practice is now vacant because of a lack of security and fears among doctors for their safety, according to the Irish Medical Times. These fears are particularly felt by doctors new to the methadone treatment services, and there are still not enough doctors volunteering to treat addicted patients. About 5,000 addicts are now getting methadone treatment, but there are still waiting lists. Meanwhile, a new survey from the Citywide Drugs Crisis Campaign found that cocaine is widely available across the country; 27 community drug projects are seeing clients who are using cocaine. .

April 07, 2004

Dail Debate. Written Answers. National Drugs Strategy

15. Mr. Rabbitte 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 running at the same level as from traffic accidents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10783/04]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin):

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, compared with just over 5,000 at the end of 2000.

In the Eastern Regional Health Authority there are 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 recent years. The boards aim to address substance misuse 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, therefore, every effort is made to encourage clients to engage in treatment. Co-abuse of alcohol, cocaine and benzodiazepines is closely monitored by the clinicians treating an individual. Every effort is made to modify the clients’ use of other drugs thereby minimising the risk of overdose. For opiate users outside 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 designed a series of posters and leaflets, directly addressing risk factors contributing to overdose and how individuals can best provide assistance to those who may have overdosed. This initiative was piloted last month in all the addiction centres in the health board area and is due to be extended to GPs and health centres in the area in the coming months. 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. There are protocols in place for the transfer of those who are engaged in substitute treatment whilst in prison to facilitate their take-up for treatment on release and so reduce the risk of overdose among released prisoners who misuse opiates.

Drug-related deaths are recorded by the general mortality register of the CSO, based on the international classification of diseases 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. That is why 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.

Schools concerned by pupils' drug and alcohol use

(Source:'A lesson for schools' : Irish Independent, p. 14 07 Apr 2004)

The use of drugs and alcohol by pupils and the effect on discipline, performance and examinations are causing concern to schools. A survey of over 1,700 secondary school principals and teachers conducted by the teacher’s union ASTI revealed that one-third of respondents had taught classes in the past year in which some students were under the influence of alcohol or drugs – not necessarily drunk at their desks, but suffering the effects of too much alcohol the night before. Such pupils are a source of distraction and disruption :almost 50 per cent of teachers felt that student substance or alcohol abuse was a factor in the loss of discipline in the classroom.

Policy of 'war on drugs' ignores the realities

(Source:'The drugs myth' : The Dubliner, p. 25, 07 Apr 2004)

Cannabis is extensively used in Ireland: the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction reported that 17.7% of Irish people aged between 18 and 24 had used cannabis in 2001. Yet possession of cannabis is still criminalised, despite evidence that it causes a great deal less harm that either alcohol or cigarettes. Policy on heroin is hypocritical in the same way: registered addicts are given free methadone, but addicts and others found in possession of the same drug, in a different form, bought on the street are convicted and punished. The ‘war on drugs’ instigated in the US, has been imported into Irish drug policy at the expense of a broader approach to the problem which addresses the medical nature of addiction and provides access to adequate treatment.

April 06, 2004

Dail committee to investigate taxi industry

Source:'Taxi industry faces probe over drugs and assaults' : Irish Examiner, p. 2, 06 Apr 2004)

(Representatives of the National Taxi Drivers’ Union (NTDU) will be called to give evidence before a Dail committee investigating the extent of criminal activity in the industry. This arises amid claims of widespread drug peddling, a rise in assaults on passengers, and claims that as many as one-in-seven taxi drivers has a criminal conviction. The Gardai, who are also examining the issue, will give evidence before the committee. Several taxi drivers have been convicted of drug-related offences, including one who was sentenced to six years in prison for handling €2.75 million worth of cannabis. The NTDU believes deregulation has led to a drop in standards and has called for a ban on the issuing of any more taxi plates until a promised taxi regulator has been established

Sentencing for drug and firearms offences to be tightened up

(Source:'Gun and drug laws to be toughened up' : Irish Times, p. 4, 06 Apr 2004)

Announcing plans for a significant increase in the number of prison places, the Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, also told delegates at the annual conference of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors that legislation on guns and drugs would be tightened up and that some sentencing discretion would be taken out of the hands of judges. Mr McDowell said he was determined to change the wording of 1999 legislation providing for a mandatory 10-year jail term for anyone caught with €12,500 or more of illegal drugs. He claimed that judges were invoking too often the current provisions allowing a waiver of the 10-year sentence in exceptional circumstances. Legislative changes to be introduced in the new Criminal Justice Bill to be brought before the Dail in three weeks would compel judges to hand down lengthy prison sentences to drug dealers and those caught with firearms.

Policy on drug use in prisons sparks criticism

(Source:'Prisoners to receive advice on drugs and free condoms' : The Scotsman [Online], 5 April 2004, 06 Apr 2004)

Prisoners in Scotland’s jails are to be given free condoms and advice on safer heroin use under new measures, according to a Scottish Prison Service internal working document. Inmates would be encouraged to inhale or smoke drugs rather than inject, and could also be given advice on safer techniques for intravenous drug use and citric acid sachets to help dissolve and inject heroin. The policies, set out in the first social inclusion policy for the service, sparked accusations from the Tories that prison authorities were encouraging drug use. An SPS spokeswoman said ‘While we endeavour to eradicate drug use in prison, we also have to be realistic - some drugs might find their way into jails - and act to protect prisoners’ health.’

Magistrates say rehab option for drug offenders should be extended to drinkers


(Source:'Push to extend drug rehab plan to drinkers' : Sydney Morning Herald [Online], 5 April 2004, 06 Apr 2004)

NSW magistrates believe a program that gives drug addicts the chance to become clean should be extended to include drinkers, describing alcohol as the biggest cause of crime. However, some magistrates believe repeat drug offenders use the treatment programs as a ‘soft option’ and say there should be a limit on how many chances they have to participate. The findings are contained in a survey published today by the NSW Judicial Commission about the Magistrates Early Referral into Treatment (MERIT) program. The program gives those with illicit drug problems the chance to work - on a voluntary basis - towards rehabilitation as part of the bail process. It does not depend on a guilty plea, and there are no penalties for failing to complete treatment

April 05, 2004

Scottish prisoners to receive advice on safe drug use

Source:'Prisoners to receive advice on drugs and free condoms' : The Scotsman online 05 Apr 2004

A Scottish Prison Service (SPS) internal working document has proposed that education on safer injecting techniques should be practiced in prisons. It also proposes that citric acid sachets to help and dissolve heroin should be provided. Furthermore it suggests that prisoners should smoke drugs rather inject to reduce harm as well as provide free condoms. “Prison is a microcosm of society and it would be naïve for us to believe prisoners do not take drugs or have sex. While we endeavour to eradicate drug use in prison, we also have to realistic- some drugs might find their way into jails- and act to protect prisoner’s health”, a SPS spokeswoman.

Blair keen for powers to test burglary suspects

Source:'Blair hails bobbies on the beat' : BBC news, bbc.co.uk/news 05 Apr 2004

The British Prime Minister Tony Blair is supposed to be interested in implementing a law that will make drug testing for offenders compulsory. Under existing powers in the UK suspects can only be tested for heroin and cocaine if they have been charged. The government believes that early intervention means people who are identified as users can be diverted away from crime into treatment. About three quarters of crack cocaine and heroin users claim they commit crime to fund their habits, with 75% of the 100,000 most persistent offenders in the UK involved in drug misuse.

April 04, 2004

US websites sell psychedelic substances

Source:'Psycho pills' : Irish Daily Star, p. 30, 04 Apr 2004

Websites based in the US are selling psychedelic substances such as 2-CI sold as “research chemicals”. These new designer drugs are illegal in Ireland and the UK but as yet can be legally produced in the US. Some websites add a disclaimer that places the onus of legality on the purchaser: “All purchasers are responsible for compliance with any applicable city, country, state, federal or national regulations relating to the purchase, possession and use of any products”. Garda spokesman Sgt Jim Molloy warned that although none these drugs had been seized in Ireland, he warned that potential users would have no idea of the effects they would have. “You don’t know what you are taking so it’s best to take nothing at all”, he said.

€3m worth of drugs found in taxis since deregulation

Source:'Deals on wheels' : Irish Daily Star Sunday, p. 20, 04 Apr 2004

Over €3m worth of drugs has been discovered in taxis since the taxi industry has been deregulated in 2000 it has been revealed. National Taxi Drivers Union (NDTU) vice-president Vinny Kearns feels that the figure could be even higher. “I am personally aware and have details of at least €3m having been seized but I am also convinced that if the Gardai produced statistics then the figure would increase significantly”, he said. Mr Kearns feels that these statistics reveal problems with the deregulation of the industry. “Deregulation has worked in countries where they put strict entry criteria in place but here there are absolutely no qualifications needed to become a taxi driver. Since deregulation there is no apprenticeship, these people walk in and nobody knows who they are or where they come from. The reality is that Charles Manson could get a licence to drive a taxi in this country”, he said.

TD warns of heroin influx

Source:'Ireland’s war on dealers in death' : News of the World, p.43, 04 Apr 2004

Eoin Ryan, a Dublin TD, has warned that a ‘tidal wave’ of heroin from Afghanistan is to hit the streets in Dublin. “Over the last two years, Afghanistan has gone from producing heroin in about 10 of its 32 states to 24 or 25 states”, Mr Ryan said. “It has resumed top position as the world’s leading producer of opium. Experts say it takes two years for opium produced in Afghanistan to reach Europe as heroin, and the 2002 crop is now due”, he added. Mr Ryan was speaking after a series of high-level talks in Europe over the last few weeks which was looking at methods of eradicating poppy production in Afghanistan. For Mr Ryan the task ahead in Ireland was three-fold. “One, cut it off at the top at the source of production, two cut out the demand on the streets and three make sure that there are treatment places for people addicted. The ultimate key to tackling the scourge of heroin is to ensure that communities both in Afghanistan and in Ireland’s inner cities have the support to create a better future for themselves and their families”.

Economics of drug use to be calculated

Source:'Prostitution, drugs give €1.3bn boost to GNP' : Sunday Business Post, p. 1, 04 Apr 2004

Eurostat, the European Union’s statistical office, is preparing to estimates the amount of illegal activities in Europe and their relative contribution to the economy. While some EU members were concerned about assessing the economy in prostitution and drug trafficking European Union regulations “explicitly say that the fact that something is illegal or legal is not the criterion why something should be in accounts or not”, said Brian Newson, head of Eurostat’s national accounts unit. “Generating income- for example, by producing and distributing drugs- looks like an economic activity like any other. The practical problems arise in measuring these illegal activities”, he added. Calculations are to be made by measuring the number of users of drugs and the market value of the drugs consumed. Illegal activities are thought to account for as much as 1% of national wealth. The Irish economy was worth €132bn last year, therefore it is estimated that illegal activities may account for €1.3bn in Ireland.

April 03, 2004

€10,000 donation provides lifeline for Aisling Group

Source:'€10,000 lifeline to Aisling group' : Meath Chronicle, p. 6, 03 Apr 2004

The AIB Better Ireland Programme donated €10,000 to the Aisling Group which will provide vital funds in keeping the centre open. The Navan-based organisation provides a drug-free recovery programme, the only one available in the North East, was in danger of closing this year due to lack of funding. Ms Maire Byrne, director of the Aisling Group, pointed out the benefits that the donation would make: “Currently Ireland has one of the highest rates of young people abusing substances in Europe so there is a strong need to provide a service that will help them grow to their full potential without resorting to drugs or alcohol. Already our programme has resulted in improvements in family relations, better integration and less anti-social activity at community level. Plans are also at advanced stage to pilot our drug-free sport training for young people though Meath Local Sports Partnership following approval by the Irish Sports Council. Thanks to AIB Better Ireland Programme, more people will be able to benefit from our services”.

Euridice programme launched in NEHB

Source:'Health Board staff explore dependencies issues' : Meath Chronicle, p. 15, 03 Apr 2004

The North Eastern Health Board (NEHB) became the first Irish workplace to implement the Euridice programme, a project that views the workplace as a resource where issues of dependency can be addressed. The NEHB began the programme as health care workers are often confronted by dependency issues in the course of their work, or indeed their personal lives. One of the programmes’ aims is to raise awareness of the effects of dependencies and the stigma attached to those affected either directly or indirectly with dependencies. The programme aimed to train people over five weeks to support colleagues in understanding dependency issues.

April 02, 2004

€6.5 billion in aid offered to Afghanistan

Source:'Donors pledge €6.5 billion to Afghanistan ' : Irish Times, p. 11, 02 Apr 2004

The Berlin conference on aid to Afghanistan promised €6.5 billion to the country over the next three years to aid, among other things, irrigation and reconstruction of the country, with a new deal agreed to combat drug production in the country. The programme will see an new initiative by the Kabul government to destroy poppy fields in conjunction with neighbours China, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Iran and Pakistan. President of Afghanistan, Mr Hamid Karzai, thanked all countries for their contributions. “In a few years Afghanistan will not be a burden on your shoulders [and] will stand on its own feet”, he said. Ireland pledged €5 million in aid, bringing Ireland’s total to the beleaguered country to €17 million since January 2002.

US criticises Britain over Afghan opium eradication

Source:'Britain accused over Afghan opium failure' : Guardian Unlimited 02 Apr 2004

The US has criticised its closest allay Britain over the failure to destroy opium production in Afghanistan. The US state department’s senior narcotics officer Robert Charles feels that Britain has not done enough to eradicate opium production, and this coupled with unusually good weather, has contributed to an unprecedented boom in heroin production. “Unless direct, effective and measurable action is taken immediately, we may well be looking at well over 120,000 hectares this year”, said Mr Charles. “We believe that if there is heroin poppy that need to be eradicated we shouldn’t be picking and choosing, we shouldn’t be delaying, we shouldn’t be making it conditional on finding an alternative. One priority here should not be a misplaced sympathy for someone who has to do a little more work”, he added. Mr Charles was addressing a congressional committee in the United States on the current situation in Afghanistan.

Merchants Quay report highlights health problems for drug-using women

Source:'Major hep C risk shown for female addicts' : Irish Times, p. 10, 02 Apr 2004

Research carried out by Merchants Quay Ireland has shown that hepatitis C is a major health risk for women who use heroin. The results, published today in Pieces of the Jigsaw investigated the health of 17 heroin-using women. It showed that 14 of 15 women tested had hepatitis C antibodies in their bloodstream and that more than two thirds were homeless. Just under a quarter of those interviewed had attempted suicide. Director of Merchants Quay Ireland, Mr Tony Geoghegan, called on the government to establish public education programmes for drug users and to provide more extensive needle-exchange services, as well as facilities that would promote healthier injecting practices among homeless people.

April 01, 2004

Drugnet 45

Drugnet 45 (EMCDDA, April 2004)

Inquest jury calls for review of search policy in Mountjoy

(Source:'Strip-search prisoner dies from drug overdose in cell' : Irish Independent, p. 5, 01 Apr 2004)

An inquest into the death in September 2002 of Angela Murray, a prisoner in Mountjoy’s Dochas centre for women, found that she had seven different types of drug in her system, including anti-depressants, tranquillisers and methadone, which had had a lethal cocktail effect and led to her death. Despite a routine strip-search carried out when she was admitted, the prisoner managed to hide on her person a large quantity of cannabis (enough for 700 hand-rolled cigarettes) and some pills. The inquest jury called for a review of the search policy at Mountoy prison.

Evaluation of UK community sentencing scheme for drug offenders

(Source:'National Audit Office evalutation of DTTOs' : DrugScope, posted 26 March 2004, 01 Apr 2004)

A report entitled ‘The Drug Treatment and Testing Order: early lessons’ was released by the UK National Audit Office today. The report found that DTTOs can be a successful community sentence for some misusing offenders who would otherwise have been considered for a prison sentence. However, only 28% of Orders terminated in 2003 were completed in full or were terminated early for good progress, reflecting the challenges faced by local services in keeping chaotic drug misusers on an intensive and highly structured programme. In three pilot areas, 80 per cent of offenders on the Order had been reconvicted within two years. For those who had completed the Order the re-conviction rate was lower, at 53 per cent. Martin Barnes, Chief Executive of DrugScope commented: ‘In a climate of record prison numbers and increasing reconviction rates for ex-prisoners, community penalties are not a soft option but a real and necessary alternative to prison.’ The full report is available on the National Audit Office website at www.nao.org.uk


Study on male infertility shows link with cannabis

(Source:'Making a hash of fertility' : Irish Daily Star, p. 14, 01 Apr 2004)

In the course of a study on the habits of infertile men carried out by Queen’s University Belfast, researchers noted that some of the men undergoing fertility investigations were cannabis smokers. The effect on sperm of THC – the main ingredient in cannabis – revealed that it impedes sperm mobility, thereby reducing fertility.

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