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June 29, 2004

Customs launch new surveillance vessel

(Source:'Cutter launch: custom-built craft to be used by Revenue' : Irish Times, p. 7, 29 Jun 2004)

The first purpose-built Revenue Customs cutter was officially named in Cork Harbour yesterday. The vessel, The RCC Surbheir, was an important strengthening of Revenue’s capacity to carry forward the fight against the importation of drugs, said Minister for Finance Mr McCreevy. Revenue Customs Section seized drugs worth €21 million and suspected drug-related cash of €500,000 in 2003. The 22.7m long cutter has a speed of 25 knots and can accommodate a crew of six – who will be unarmed. A Revenue spokesman said it was not envisaged that the RCC Surbheir would be used in confrontational situations; the crew could call on the Naval Service for assistance if needed

Homegrown marijuana can be extra potent

(Source:'Stronger drugs fears' : Irish Daily Star, p. 16, 29 Jun 2004)

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) said yesterday that homegrown marijuana in the EU can be up to three times more potent than that imported from North Africa, the Caribbean and the Far East. The potency is measured by the level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in cannabis, which decomposes over time – making imported marijuana weaker than the homegrown variety. Marijuana consumed in EU nations contains an average of eight per cent THC, but in the Netherlands the THC content is double. Dutch officials say their policy of tolerance has not triggered higher drug use, but has raised concerns about health problems relating to high-potency cannabis

June 28, 2004

Employment can be a route out of drug use

(Source:'EU drug-abuse experts ponder 'routes out' ' : The Scotsman [Online] 28 Jun 2004)

Some130 delegates from eight European countries will today discuss ‘routes out’ of drug abuse, i.e., the best ways that recovering drug users can gain employment, at a conference in Glasgow. The event has been organised by Greater Glasgow Drug Action Team, the Scottish Drugs Forum and the pan-European drugs information network T3E. The conference aims to highlight the role of employment in the later stages of treatment of drug users and how it can help stem the rise of drugs problems. Dave Liddell, director of the Scottish Drugs Forum, said: “Despite being increasingly important in national drug strategies, employability is a subject rarely considered at international exchanges and this is an excellent way for policymakers to learn lessons from elsewhere so the people of Scotland can benefit." The Glasgow event follows a series of events organised by T3E across the European Union over the past ten years. At the Scottish conference, policymakers, practitioners and delegates who have had drugs problems hope to agree on a strategy that can be fed into drugs policies at both EU and individual-country level.

Illegal steroids make their way onto Irish market

(Source:'Concern as illegal steroids mailed in for sale in gyms' : Irish Independent, p. 7, 28 Jun 2004)

Since January 2004 Customs has seized €200,000 of steroids imported into Ireland. According to Revenue, these seizures are a relatively new departure and may indicate a much larger problem of illegal anabolic steroids being posted into the country for sale in gyms.

UK drug users commit crime to get into prison-based treatment

(Source:'Crime pays for drug users desperate for access to treatment ' : The Guardian Online, 28 Jun 2004)

Almost one-third of chronic drug users interviewed in areas of Britain where community drug treatment services were poor said they committed crimes to get themselves arrested and imprisoned simply to get access to treatment, according to research published today by the social care charity Turning Point. The study, Routes into Treatment: Drugs and Crime, says that the development of drug treatment and testing orders (DTTOs) has proved so effective in parts of the country as a fast track into treatment services for drug abusers convicted of crime that they are seen by desperate drug users as the only way to get treatment. It points out that, for the first time, the government is now spending more money on treatment ordered by the courts and the police than on treatment services in the community for all drug abusers. The report finds that DTTOs are effective at getting convicted offenders into treatment and can have significant benefits at reducing re-offending, with 38 per cent fewer being reconvicted compared with other offenders. The research is to be presented at a conference today to be addressed by the home secretary, David Blunkett

June 10, 2004

Cannabis-based medicine may help arthritis patients

(Source:'GW cannabis drug hope for arthritis' : Financial Times, p. 25, 10 Jun 2004)

The makers of the cannabis-based medicine, Sativex, claim that the product has shown positive results in a phase II clinical trial involving 58 rheumatoid arthritis sufferers. GW Pharmaceuticals is already seeking regulatory approval for Sativex as a prescription treatment for multiple sclerosis and neuropathic pain. The company will now move into late-stage trials of the drug – administered in an oral spray – for arthritis treatment.

Seat on LA Neighborhood Council for 'skid row' resident

(Source:'Five homeless men compete in election to win a seat on skid row' : Irish Independent, p. 35, 10 Jun 2004)

Five homeless men from the Los Angeles ‘Skid Row’ area are competing for election to a seat on the downtown Neighborhood Council, the US’s only known elected position for people living on the streets or in temporary shelters and flophouses. There are tens of thousands of inhabitants in the area covering 40 square city blocks known as Skid Row; many are either drug addicts or mentally ill.

Record seizure of amphetamines in Fiji

(Source:'£307m worth of amphetamines seized in record Fiji drug bust' : The Guardian Online, 10 Jun 2004)

Police yesterday raided what is believed to be the biggest methamphetamine laboratory in the southern hemisphere, on an industrial estate near Suva, the capital of Fiji. Hidden in a warehouse they found five kilos of methamphetamine, along with a tonne of precursor chemicals, with an estimated street value of £307m. The discovery of such a big drug operation in a quiet corner of the Pacific has shocked officials, despite recent warnings that the area’s microstates could provide a haven for transnational crime. A Fiji police spokesman said the operation appeared to have been financed from Hong Kong and that the warehouse was leased to an Asian expatriate. Three Fijians and four Chinese nationals were arrested

June 02, 2004

Seven out of ten drug tests on drivers are positive

(Source:'Drugs new demon on the roads, survey finds' : Irish Independent, p. 2, 02 Jun 2004)

An extensive survey of 2,000 motorists by the Medical Bureau of Road Safety has found that seven out of 10 (68%) of drivers tested by gardai had no evidence of alcohol in their systems but tested positive for one or more drugs. One-quarter of all male drivers under 25 years of age tested positive for drugs, particularly cannabis and cocaine. Drivers are rarely prosecuted for drug-driving offences; a review of legislation is expected to change this situation by allowing prosecutions to be routinely brought in such cases.

Call for criminal assets to benefit those harmed by drug dealing

(Source:'‘Proceeds of crime should go to victims’ ' : Irish Examiner, p. 13, 02 Jun 2004)

Anti-drugs campaigners maintain that the proceeds of drug dealers’ assets confiscated by the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) should be put back into the communities most affected by drugs. At present, assets must be frozen for seven years before they can be handed over to the State. The assets of 10 major criminals, including John Gilligan and members of his gang, amounting to some €4 million, are due to be transferred to the State this year. Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI) director Tony Geoghegan said: ‘When the drugs task forces were set up, they said the money from CAB would go back to the communities.’ A Dublin Citywide Drugs Crisis Campaign spokesman called for resources to be made available to CAB to allow it to target middle-ranking drug dealers. A Department of Finance spokesperson said there were no plans to ring-fence money from the proceeds of crime.

Psychiatrists warn against any move to declassify cannabis

(Source:'Doctors warn: don’t declassify cannabis' : Irish Examiner, p. 7, 02 Jun 2004)

The Irish Psychiatric Association (IPA) has presented a paper to the Department of Health warning against any move to declassify cannabis, citing research showing a link between the drug and the onset of mental health problems. The research was carried out by Dr Mary Cannon of the Royal College of Surgeons and found evidence that cannabis use in the early teenage years can lead to the development of schizophrenia in those who would not otherwise be at risk of the illness. Dr Cannon co-authored a study in New Zealand which found that 10 per cent of regular cannabis users under 18 years of age went on to develop a form of schizophrenia by their mid-twenties. The IPA paper is under review by the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Tim O’Malley.

June 01, 2004

SIPTU critical of drug-testing legislation

(Source:'Drug testing legislation dangerous, says SIPTU' : Irish Examiner, p. 6, 01 Jun 2004)

Provisions in the new Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Bill that will allow employers to test workers for drink and drugs have been described as ‘dangerous’ by the trade union SIPTU. The union claims the legislation is open to abuse and could lead to victimisation and that the drug testing provisions could lead to the neglect of more fundamental health and safety practice. The union’s health and safety officer, Sylvester Cronin, said the legislation will raise questions as to the actions open to an employer if a drug test is positive. SIPTU welcomed the main provisions relating to other aspects of health and safety at work.

Government has failed to deliver on drug prevention

(Source:'Bertie’s broken promises' : Ireland on Sunday, p. 10, 01 Jun 2004)

The Taoiseach claimed last week that his government had not broken any of its general election pledges. However, one of ten promises on which the government has failed to deliver relates to the drugs problem. The government promised: ‘We will ensure that regional drugs task forces operate efficiently to ensure that prevention programmes are active in all areas of the country’ (Programme for Government 2002). Since this pledge was made, Drugs Task Force funding has been cut. There are an estimated 14,450 heroin users in the State, with 12,456 in the Dublin area; only half of the approximately 15,000 in Dublin who are addicted to hard drugs are receiving treatment.

May 26, 2004

Ineffective parenting can lead to drug use

(Source:'Parents may be to blame for children’s drug use' : Times Online, 26 May 2004)

Britain’s leading parenting charity, Parentline Plus, has claimed in a recent report that parents are often responsible for their children becoming drug users. The report found that a significant majority of parents who called its helpline about their children using drugs were so out of touch with the drugs scene that they were incapable of talking meaningfully to their children about the dangers of drugs. They were particularly confused about the reclassification of cannabis as a class C drug and could not understand why the Government should tolerate the use of any drug at all. Parents’ failure to set boundaries on their children’s behaviour as they are growing up, as well as their ignorance about drugs, were likely to be crucial influences on whether children turned to drugs. 'Ineffective, or negative parenting, where there is a lack of boundaries for children from an early age and a lack of negotiations about a value base as the child grows up, play a part', Jan Fry, the report’s author, said.

May 25, 2004

Heroin problems affect rural towns

(Source:'Heroin is rife in our town – even the dogs on the street could get it' : Irish Daily Star Sunday, p. 28, 23 May 2004)

Health workers in Wexford town are concerned at the rising number of young people seeking treatment for heroin addiction. The deaths of two young men in the town in the past six weeks has highlighted how ‘smack’ dealers have extended their operations outside Dublin. The most recent Southern Health Board figures show that the number of people seeking help for heroin-related addiction has increased by almost 400 per cent since 1998. A garda spokesman said: ‘There are certain people under investigation – some are local, some are from outside the town. But we need hard evidence – that is possession with intent to supply – before we can do anything.’ Heroin deaths have been recorded in the past two years in Cavan, Clare, Kerry, Kildare, Laois, Louth, Offaly, Tipperary, Westmeath and Wexford.

Falling cost of class A drugs linked to rise in drug deaths in UK

(Source:'Surge in drug deaths linked to falling cost and rise in causul use ' : News, 24 May 2004)

The falling street price of class A drugs such as cocaine and heroin, and their increased use among young people, is fuelling a rise in the number of drug-related deaths in the UK. Experts said the increasing number of deaths was partly due to a misconception among young professionals that cocaine is a safe recreational drug, with many indulging in weekend "coke" binges which often involved using the drug in combination with alcohol. There were 87 cocaine-related deaths over the first six months of 2003, double the amount of fatalities in the same period the previous year. One gram of cocaine now costs around £40 compared to £70 a few years ago, while the price of heroin has also been slashed by dealers. In some parts of Britain, a single gram of heroin was found to cost as little as £25. More than 640,000 people used cocaine last year, which is triple the number of users in 1997. Many of these are believed to be wealthy young people in high-pressure jobs.

Simon Community report criticises lack of social housing

(Source:'Lack of social housing ‘barrier’ for the homeless' : Irish Examiner, p. 3, 24 May 2004)

The annual report of the Dublin Simon Community claims that the greatest barrier to escaping homelessness, especially for single men, is the lack of social housing provision. The report reveals that not one of the 400 people who used the Dublin Simon Community shelter in 2003 succeeded in obtaining housing from a local authority. Most recent figures show that 2,920 adults are homeless in the greater Dublin area. Poverty remains the main factor causing people to become homeless, aggravated by problems of alcohol and drug abuse associated with living on the street.

Anxious parents resort to drug-testing kits

(Source:'1,000 drug-testing kits a month sold to concerned parents' : Irish Examiner, p. 5, 25 May 2004)

The Irish company, Hunter Diagnostics, sells up to 1,000 drug-testing kits a month to parents who are concerned that their children may be using illegal drugs. The test is administered using a urine sample, and indicates the presence of six different types of drug: cocaine, speed, ecstasy, cannabis, opiates, heroin and valium. Each test costs about €25. The National Parents Council said that the test kits were being marketed as an easy way of dealing with the problem of drugs, and warned that they could seriously damage the relationship of trust between parents and children. The council advises that parents should speak to a GP if they think their child is using drugs

NI partnership on alcohol and drugs in the workplace

(Source:'Drug and alcohol policies can work' : Newsletter, Bus2, 25 May 2004)

A partnership to address drugs and alcohol in the workplace has been formed between Business in the Community and the Northern Ireland Drugs and Alcohol Strategy Team. The initiative aims to make employers more aware of workplace drugs and alcohol policies and how they can be made to work. It is estimated that 400,000 working days are lost each year as a result of alcohol misuse, and 10,000 days are lost to drug misuse. A series of workshop seminars will be held throughout Northern Ireland in June

May 24, 2004

GPs alerted to abuse of medicines

(Source:'GPs are urged to be aware of substance abuse' : Irish Medical News, p. 22, 24 May 2004)

The director of the Misuse of Drugs Programme in the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) Dr Ide Delargy, told the College’s AGM that both over-the-counter and prescribed products are being widely abused, including cough medicine containing codeine, and benzodiazepines. She said GPs needed to be aware of the prevalence of the problem in relation to both legal and illegal substances. About one-third of adults with alcohol problems had an underlying mental health problem, she said, as did 50 per cent of drug users.

May 20, 2004

MQI permitted to retain prefab on site

(Source:'Social care centre stays' : Irish Times Property, p. 35, 20 May 2004)

Christchurch Residents’ Association has lost an appeal against the granting of planning permission for the retention of a Portakabin at the premises of Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI). The MQI runs its homeless and drug users support service from a number of single-storey buildings as well as the Portakabin on the site behind Adam and Eve Church. The association appealed on the grounds that there is an ‘intensification of use’ of the site due to the growing volume of clients – up from 3,707 in 1993 to 39,212 in 2002. It claimed that the area suffered from anti-social behaviour ‘associated with the site’ and that MQI refuses to hand over CCTV footage of anti-social behaviour to the gardai. MQI responded that the appeal was not relevant to the development seeking retention. An Bord Pleanála granted permission for the retention of the Portakabin for five years.

May 19, 2004

Penal reform group supports syringe exchange

(Source:'Reformers call for jail clean needle plan' : Irish Examiner, p. 9, 19 May 2004)

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) gave a presentation yesterday to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna in support of the provision by prison authorities of clean syringes to prisoners. Rick Lines of the IPRT said such provision reduced the spread of HIV and hepatitis C, citing a recent review of evaluated schemes in Switzerland, Germany and Spain that found that syringe sharing was ‘strongly reduced’ in seven of nine prisons surveyed. He said research had also shown that provision of clean syringes in prisons was linked to a dramatic decrease in fatal and non-fatal heroin overdoses. He also said that international research had shown that needles were not used as weapons in the prison setting. Justice Minister Michael McDowell is on record as saying that he was opposed to syringe exchange programmes or providing bleach for cleaning needles; he proposes a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to drugs in prisons. Research published in 2003 by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) showed that 80% of injecting drug users in Ireland had hepatitis C – the highest rate in the EU.

President McAleese visits drug treatment service

(Source:'Mary: Lab’s all white' : The Sun, p. 19 19 May 2004)

The Sun, p. 19 President Mary McAleese paid a visit to the Drug Treatment Centre Board’s laboratory yesterday, as the Board celebrated 35 years helping drug addicts.

May 18, 2004

Pharmacists' views on methadone programme

(Source:'Methadone survey' : Irish Times Health Supplement, p. 6, 18 May 2004)

A survey of pharmacists participating in methadone treatment programmes for drug addicts found that 18 per cent had been subject to threats or intimidation from patients on such programmes in the past year. The survey was conducted over the weekend at the Irish Pharmaceutical Union’s annual conference. Participating pharmacists reported that they had also been the subject of verbal abuse (32 per cent), armed robbery (7 per cent), and complaints from neighbouring business (40 per cent).

Support for professionals in dealing with children of alcoholic families

(Source:'ENCARE: European Network for Children Affected by Risky Environments Within the Family ' : 18 May 2004)

ENCARE is a European project, founded to help professionals tackle the problems faced by children who live in risky family environments. The first risky environment to be considered is families where parents have problems with alcohol. Further information on the ENCARE website at:

May 17, 2004

Health board takes note of survey results

(Source:'One-in-four admit to taking drugs' : Irish Medical News, p. 6, 17 May 2004)

One quarter of people aged between 15 and 64 in the South Western Area Health Board (SWAHB) admit to having taken drugs, while nine out of 10 have drunk alcohol, according to the Drug Use in Ireland and Northern Ireland. However, the SWAHB had lower levels of drug abuse than the Northern Area or East Coast Area Health Boards. The SWAHB CEO, reporting to the latest meeting of the board, said that the report findings would be taken into consideration when devising policies on addiction. The survey took place between 2002 and 2003, and involved over 800 respondents.

May 16, 2004

Prison drug-testing linked to rise in heroin use

(Source:'Prisoners swap hash for heroin' : Irish Daily Star Sunday, p. 32, 16 May 2004)

Criminals in Castlerea prison are changing from soft drugs like cannabis to heroin because of a new regime of random drug testing – which Minister McDowell wants to extend to other prisons. Traces of cannabis stay in the body for up to 30 days, while heroin takes just three days to clear out of the system. As a result, users of soft drugs who do not want to risk being caught with substances that would lead to loss of privileges are switching to heroin use. A source at the prison said visitors were bringing in the heroin with relative ease. Rick Lines of the Irish Penal Reform Trust, which is against the scheme, said evidence from other countries showed that mandatory drug testing in prisons led prisoners to change their drug of choice in order to beat the system.

May 13, 2004

Gardai foil international drug smuggling operation

(Source:'€500m drug haul as global ecstasy trail smashed' : Irish Independent, p. 1, 13 May 2004)

A combined operation by police and customs here and in the Netherlands resulted in a successful raid last night on a rented warehouse in Walkinstown, Dublin, where a shipment of chemicals used to make drugs with a potential street value of €500 million was seized. Six men, four of whom are Chinese, one from Afghanistan, and one from Macau, are being held by gardai under the drug trafficking legislation. The consignment had been imported into Ireland from southern China via Rotterdam. It arrived on a container ship at Dublin port on Tuesday afternoon and was then transported with other cargo to the Walkinstown warehouse. Gardai believe the chemicals, concealed in barrels marked ‘vegetable oil’, were intended for the manufacture of ecstasy and amphetamine tablets in backstreet laboratories in the Netherlands. A senior garda said: ‘Ireland was meant to be a staging post on a smuggling route being used by this international gang.’

Large drug seizures in Dublin 7 and 15

(Source:'€11 million worth of drugs seized' : Northside People West, p. 2, 13 May 2004)

Two large seizures of drugs have been made in the past week in the Dublin 7 and 15 areas. Gardai from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation seized cannabis with an estimated street value of €5 million from a van in Phibsboro on 6 May last. One man in his 20s was arrested. On the same day, gardai from the Blanchardstown Detective Unit seized cannabis and ecstasy worth €6 million after searching a lorry in the Ballycoolin area of the town. One Irish national in his 50s was arrested in connection with this seizure.

Education grants denied to US drug offenders

(Source:'Drug Treatment, Policy Reform Leaders Call for Repeal of Financial Aid Drug Penalty' : Daily Dose, [Join Together, USA], 13 May 2004)

Data from the US Department of Education reveal that more than 140,000 would-be college students have been found ineligible for federal loans and grants since a provision denying aid to drug offenders was added to the Higher Education Act (HEA) in 1998. A drug conviction is the only offense that bars students from receiving aid. Recently, drug treatment professionals have been joining the fight to repeal the law. 'We should be focusing on solutions that tap the proven expertise and effectiveness of prevention, intervention, and treatment. Instead, the drug provision is strictly punitive', said Pat Ford-Roegner, Executive Director of NAADAC--The Association for Addiction Professionals. 'If we want to help these young people become productive members of society, hindering their access to a college education is foolish -- in fact it increases the likelihood that their drug misuse will continue'. The full press release is available on the Join Together website

May 12, 2004

NI crime report identifies links with drugs

(Source:'Parliamilitaries will not ‘return to nine-to-five jobs’' : Irish Times, p. 9, 12 May 2004)

The report of Northern Ireland’s Organised Crime Task Force, published yesterday, detailed the kind of activities engaged in by ‘ordinary’ criminals and paramilitaries, ranging from £10 ‘party packs’ sold by drug dealers to multi-million-pound laundering of diesel fuel. PSNI officials estimate that 235 criminal gangs are involved, of which more than 150 have links to paramilitaries. In Northern Ireland last year 1,500 people were arrested for drug offences and drugs valued at £12.5 million were seized. On display at the launch of the report were cricket bats hollowed out to contain heroin and cannabis, beer cans that contained cocaine worth £250,000 and a petrol tank that had contained six kilos of ecstasy. Loyalist organisations such as the UDA, the Loyalist Volunteer Force and, to a lesser degree, the UVF and the INLA are involved in drugs crime according to the report.

Fourfold increase in cocaine seizures in London

(Source:'Police seize four times as much cocaine in capital ' : The Guardian [Online], 12 May 2004)

The amount of cocaine seized in London has quadrupled in a year, Scotland Yard revealed yesterday. Police say this is due to rising demand for the drug, as well as an increase in action against crack houses and dealers. The amount of heroin seized has halved, apparently because dealers are switching to the more profitable cocaine. Most of the cocaine entering Britain comes from South America. The Met said officers recovered 360kg of the class A drug in the 2003-04 financial year, compared with 96kg the year before. Heroin seizures fell from 105kg to 43kg. According to the National Criminal Intelligence Service's latest threat assessment, 35 to 45 tonnes of cocaine were smuggled into the UK in 2003.

Hepatitis C infection in drug users at 80 per cent

(Source:'80% of IV drug users infected with Hep C' : Medicine Weekly, p. 6, 12 May 2004)

New data released by the National Disease Surveillance Centre indicates that approximately 80 per cent of intravenous drug users (IDU) have been infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). The NDSC stressed that there is a ‘dearth of information on hepatitis C in Ireland’. Because hepatitis C was not made a notifiable disease until January 2004, there are no prevalence figures available for the general population. However, estimates based on two groups – blood donors and non-IDU prison entrants – suggest quite a low overall prevalence, at between 0.01 per cent and 1.4 per cent. The NDSC report based its findings on information from a wide variety of sources, including the HIPE system, the Central Statistics Office, the National Liver Transplant Unit, the IBTS and the National Virus Reference Laboratory (NVRL). The large discrepancy between the number of cases notified in 2002 and the number of new cases identified by the NVRL in the same year highlights the inadequacy of hepatitis C surveillance in Ireland, according to the NDSC.

May 11, 2004

Resource pack from drug abuse support group

(Source:'Help pack aims to ease pain of drug addiction' : Irish Times Health Supplement, p. 5, 11 May 2004)

The City-Wide Family Support Network has produced an information pack for families affected by drug abuse. The resource pack has been produced by families themselves and contains the sometimes painful details of eight families’ experiences, that have been formed into one composite story. The pack also guides users through the typical journey towards deciding to stop taking drugs. It gives detailed information on the health implications of drug misuse and a section identifying the different drugs being used. There is also an eight-page directory with contact details for family support groups, drugs task forces and other relevant groups. For further information, and to get a resource pack, contact Sadie Grace or Philip Keegan at the City-Wide Family Support Network, on (01) 8364849

May 05, 2004

Faults in prison system lead to re-offending

(Source:'Given no option but to reoffend' : Irish Times, p. 16, 05 May 2004)

Ireland has ‘devised a prison system calculated to ensure the maximum recycling of the prison population, indifferent to the results for prisoners and society generally’. A survey of ex-prisoners by Gearóid O Loinsigh, called ‘Getting out, Staying out,’ shows that a high proportion of prisoners return to crime almost immediately on release – often simply to get money for accommodation or to finance a drug dependency. Drug treatment programmes in prison are inadequate and access to methadone maintenance programmes – and resuming the programme on release – is often difficult. ‘There is no joined-up drug treatment programme and, of course, within the jail drugs are easily available.’

Prison GPs on strike will provide 'emergency cover'

(Source:'Prisoners ‘will not be denied medication’' : Irish Examiner, p. 7, 05 May 2004)

Twenty-five prison GPs who began a week-long strike yesterday denied claims that new inmates could be denied medication; they claim that emergency cover and prescribing of medication, including methadone, will continue during the strike period. A spokesman for the Prison Service said the strike was causing a real difficulty, particularly in the case of prisoners on methadone maintenance. The 23 part-time and two full-time doctors want improved contracts and the implementation of a major report on prison healthcare services published in 2001.

May 04, 2004

Midland GP resigns from methadone service

(Source:'Difficulty replacing methadone doctor after resignation in midlands' : Irish Medical News, p. 12, 04 May 2004)

Dr Patrick Troy, who recently resigned his post with the Midland Health Board’s(MHB) methadone treatment service ‘for personal reasons’, was involved in the setting up of the service and was a level-two GP, trained to initiate opiate addiction treatment. His departure means that the service now has no permanent qualified level-two GP. The MHB said it was having difficulty, like other boards, in recruiting suitably qualified GPs to work in the methadone service. Of a number of GPs who recently undertook training in Athlone, four were willing to act as level-one GPs in the service, allowing them to provide treatment in the community to clients who have been stabilised. Dr Troy continues to work in the addiction services in the Dublin and south-eastern regions.

May 02, 2004

Committee on drugs and alcohol reports to SHB

(Source:'SHB committee compiles drug and alcohol report' : Sunday Independent Business, p. 9, 02 May 2004)

The SHB’s Committee on Prevention and Treatment of Drug and Alcohol Abuse presented its report to the health board recently. The aim of the report is to outline the work of the committee and the SHB and to detail the current approach to prevention, treatment and research. It also makes recommendations for the future direction and development of services. It emphasised the benefits of recent SHB initiatives, including the Schools Policy Guidelines, Club Cork (an awareness programme for club managers, security staff and publicans); and the increase in the development of treatment services throughout the region.

May 01, 2004

Aisling Group's drug-free day programme forced to close

(Source:'Drug-free project to close' : Meath Chronicle, p. 3, 01 May 2004)

The Aisling Drugs Awareness Group, which has operated an award-wining drug-free day programme for drug-dependent people in Navan since 2000, was forced to close last week due to lack of funds. The Bradan programme was awarded one of AIB’s Better Ireland awards this year. The director of both the Aisling and Bradan operations, Marie Byrne, said that the cost of paying two addiction counsellors as well as rent and overheads, without any funding this year from central government or the North Eastern Health Board (NEHB), had left them no option but to cease activities. The NEHB said the Bradan Day Programme was allocated €44,440 last year from the addiction services budget for counselling costs, but that 1n 2004 it was agreed to fund the programme on a case by case basis. Ms Byrne said the ‘case by case’ funding plan would not be appropriate as the NEHB had not referred a single person to the programme since it began. Clients were referred by the courts and other agencies such as doctors and families.

Information session on drugs organised for midlands

(Source:'Questions and answers on problem of drugs' : Leinster Express, p. 7, 01 May 2004)

A free question and answer session on drugs awareness will take place in the Heritage Hotel, Portlaoise, on Wednesday 12 May, beginning at 7.00 p.m. Speakers will include Bill Ebbitt, Regional Drugs Co-ordinator for the Midland Health Board, Detective Superintendent Barry O’Brien of the Garda National Drugs Unit, Diane Burke of the ‘Block Project’ in Portlaoise, and a representative from the justice sector. People attending will have the opportunity to meet drugs professionals and to discuss all aspects of drug misuse. The session takes place against the background of a recent Health Research Board survey that revealed that three out of four Irish people don’t have enough information, or have the wrong information, about drugs. The event is sponsored by the Health Promotion Unit of the Department of Health and Children, in association with the Midland Health Board and the Leinster Express. Admission is free and those wishing to attend should contact the Regional Drugs Task Force on (0502) 64566, or

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

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.’

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:'' : Daily Dose, [], 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

April 27, 2004

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.

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

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.

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

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

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.

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.
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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.

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%.

Read More

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

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, 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.

April 01, 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

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.

March 31, 2004

Damage to children of drug-abusing parents

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

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

Countering opium production in Afghanistan is theme of Berlin conference

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

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

March 30, 2004

Powerful new drugs being bought online

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

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

Only five soldiers test positive in random drug tests

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

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

March 29, 2004

Supergrass plea bargains in UK to be assessed in Ireland

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

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

Alcohol contributes to suicide

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

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

March 28, 2004

Gardai claim major success in tackling cocaine

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

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

March 27, 2004

Judge calls for life imprisonment

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

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

Every town in midlands affected by drugs

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

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

Councillor calls for immediate sentencing of drug dealers

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

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

March 26, 2004

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

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

Continue reading Press Release

March 25, 2004

Minimum sentencing on drug offences is rarely enforced

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

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

March 24, 2004

Irish study shows cannabis does not increase risk of premature birth

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

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

Adolescent addiction rates among highest in EU

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

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

Use of sniffer dogs seen as infringement of rights

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

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

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

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

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

March 23, 2004

Fundraising campaign for new children's centre

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

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

March 22, 2004

Gardai predict increase in gun violence

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

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

EURAD call for pregnant women to be tested for drugs

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

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

March 20, 2004

Trim councillor calls for Garda resignation over increased crime

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

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

Chocolate trafficking ruse foiled by Gardai

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

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

March 19, 2004

Minister Martin rules out cannabis law change

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

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

EMCDDA warns of pending hepatitis epidemic

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

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

March 18, 2004

INCB warning over efforts to tackle Afghan opium production

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

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

Funding approved for Tallaght projects to prevent drug use

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

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

March 17, 2004

East Coast regional Drugs Task Force chair nominated

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

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

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

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

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

Mandatory sentencing for dealers not being enforced

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

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

March 16, 2004

SHB expands alcohol and drugs training scheme for pub staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new cross-Government approach seeks to create partnerships at local and national levels, which can address existing problems but are also flexible enough to adapt to changing needs. Press Release
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March 14, 2004

Schools test pupils for drugs

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

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

March 12, 2004

€13 fund to prevent drug use amongst young people

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

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

March 11, 2004

Minister announces €13m allocation for anti-drug scheme

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

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

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

March 10, 2004

Irish drinking levels at double EU average

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

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

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

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

Ireland's attitude to drink is immature

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

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

Trials of drug show effect in obesity and smoking cessation

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

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

March 07, 2004

Luas drivers will be tested for drink and drugs

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

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

Deaths from cocaine reach record levels in UK

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

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

March 06, 2004

Alcohol responsible for more violent crime than drugs

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

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

March 05, 2004

UN report warns of heroin influx

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

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

Government must take unpopular decisions to reduce alcohol consumption

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

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

March 04, 2004

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

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

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

Switch from food crops to cannabis production in Africa

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

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

Illegal drug sales via web should be criminalised says INCB

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

EDDRA update

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

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

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

March 03, 2004

UN urges action against Internet drug trafficking

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

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

Prison warder pleads guilty to drug possession

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

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

Court told of psychosis brought on by cannabis use

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

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

March 02, 2004

Supplies of cheap and pure heroin creating addiction crisis

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

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

SAOL project focuses on education

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

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

Plans to rid prisons of drugs meet with objections

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

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

March 01, 2004

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

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

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

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

Drug deaths equal deaths on roads.

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

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

Report on Wheatfield calls for more drug-free units.

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

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

February 29, 2004

Spain main transit country for drugs into EU

Source:'Plane cocaine mainly from Spain' : Sunday Business Post, p. 14, 29 Feb 2004

Recent figures have shown that Spain is the main transit country for drugs into the European Union. Seizures for cocaine in Spain weighing 45 tons accounted for 60 percent of the total amount brought into the EU. The Spanish police also seized a record-breaking 738 tons of hashish in 2003.

February 28, 2004

Drug use one of the major problems in Irish prisons

Source:'Counselling inadequate in prisons, report finds' : Irish Examiner p. 5, 28 Feb 2004

According to the Inspector of Prisons, Mr Justice Dermot Kinlen, drug use, poor counselling facilities and inadequate treatment for sex offenders are the three major shortcomings in Irish Prisons. Mr Kinlen was reporting on the state of Wheatfield prison in Clondalkin, Co. Dublin, Loughan House in Co. Cavan and Fort Mitchel Prison on Spike Island, Co. Cork. Describing the psychology service at Wheatfield prison as “totally inadequate” Mr Kinlen said that “the sole prison psychologist reports that she currently has a waiting list of approximately 66 prisoners and can only see between eight and 12 prisoners a week”.

Portlaoise heroin problem needs to be countered

Source:'Stanley calls for resources to tackle heroin' : Leinster Express, p. 4, 28 Feb 2004

Sinn Fein councillor Brian Stanley called for resources to be made to tackle the heroin problem in Portlaoise. Councillor Stanley pointed out that he had lobbied the Midlands Health Board (MHB) and Minister Eoin Ryan over tow years ago to provide resources to effectively address the problem. “The recent appearance of nine young people before the court in Portlaoise on over 100 drug related charges highlighted both the extent and the effects of the drugs trade in Portlaoise and exposed the lack of resources that are available to tackle the problem of heroin abuse. The facts are that proper services have not been put in place and that in the interim period many young people who have become addicted to heroin have been unable to access the treatment they need”.

February 27, 2004

17-year-old fears transfer to hostel will cause heroin relapse

Source:'Boy fears transfer to hostel used by drug addicts' : Irish Examiner, p. 8, 27 Feb 2004

A 17-year-old boy fears that once he is transferred from a health board care unit to a hostel he will return to heroin the High Court was told yesterday. Mr Justice Murphy was told that the boy was being moved from the unit as it closes on Sunday and that the boy, who is tackling a heroin problem, fears moving into a hostel as he might be offered drugs there. The boy has a history of heroin addiction and has also expressed suicidal tendencies.

The boy had begun a methadone programme and feared that at the hostel he would be offered heroin. The boy’s legal team asked the judge to set a date for bringing proceedings against the South Western Area Health Board (SWAHB). Mr Patrick Mac Entee SC for the SWAHB said that the board had kept the present unit open as long as it could, but that it had always intended that it was only a temporary arrangement. The judge, Mr Justice Murphy, aid that he would adjourn the matter to assess the new regime and he would hear the matter in April id reports were not satisfactory.

McDowell rules out harm reduction measures in prisons

Source:'Judges are warned to apply drug sentence law' : Irish Times, p. 10 27 Feb 2004

The Minister for Justice Michael McDowell has ruled out harm reduction measures such as needle exchange and sterilisation in prisons. “The notion of providing sterilising fluid and needles in prison to abusing prisoners is anathema as far as I am concerned. I am not going down that road no matter what case is made for it”. Mr McDowell was reaffirmed the governments’ commitment to creating drug-free prisons rather than drug-free units within prisons. He felt that “mandatory drug testing of prisoners and creating drug-free prisons, as opposed to drug-free units in prisons, is the way forward”. Mr McDowell added: “there is no acceptable level of drugs in prison”.

The Minister also expressed disappointment that the mandatory 10-year sentence for drug dealing was not being applied with the “vigour” that the legislature expected. He warned the judiciary “for possession of drugs with intent to supply on a commercial basis, as defined in that structure, the norm was to be a 10-year sentence and that only in exceptional cases identified by the judiciary should there be a lesser penalty”.

Saol project threatened by lack of funds

Source:'Top drug unit under threat' : The Sun, p. 29, 27 Feb 2004

The Saol rehabilitation centre may have to cut back services this year due to lack of funds. Joan Byrne of Saol said: “We expect an €80,000 shortfall this year and may have to reduce services. That would be very sad. We’ve made a dramatic difference to a lot of lives”. That dramatic difference that Saol has made was in evidence as nine women celebrated their graduation from the Women’s Studies certificate at University College. In total eleven women from the Saol project graduated (two were unable to attend) and those present pleaded for extra funding to keep Saol open. Among them was Belinda Hopkins, who said: “I started messing with speed and ecstasy at 18, then I fell into the heroin trap. I ended up on the street and hit rock bottom. Saol changed my life. They should be backed to the hilt, not cut its funds”.

Ecstasy tested to treat post-traumatic stress disorder

Source:'Ecstasy put to test in stress disorder study' : Irish Independent, p. 34, 27 Feb 2004

US drug authorities have permitted Dr Michael Mithoefer to carry out tests with MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy, to see if the drug can be beneficial in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. The psychiatrist, who practices at the Medical University of South Carolina believes it will help patients who suffer from the disorder. “There is enough evidence to warrant further study”, he said. Post-traumatic stress disorder cause sufferers into a debilitating panic as they relive a past trauma over again and again.

February 26, 2004

Killinarden Drug Primary Prevention group marks 10-year anniversary

Source:'Killinarden celebrates 10 years celebrating drugs scourge' : Echo - Tallaght, p. 6, 26 Feb 2004

The Killinarden Drug Primary Prevention Group (KDPPG) marked its 10-year anniversary with the meeting of those involved with the group over the last decade and the launch of an evaluation report. The report was compiled by Stephen Rourke who feels the group played an important role in improving the drugs situation in the area. “I think on the whole looking at their work, one would think of direct work with children and families, but also important developmental work has taken place. In Killinarden there are fewer deaths and serious illnesses, a whole range of rehabilitation programmes and a load of new youth and recreation facilities are available”. Speaking at the launch of the evaluation report Alice Murray, co-founder of the KDPPG, spoke of the difficulties in setting up the group. “We started in the days when it wasn’t politically correct to be involved in drug education, when a lot of people said we didn’t have a drugs problem, but we and it was here to stay”, she said.

Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte paid tribute to the work of the KDPPG. “Anybody who can cast their minds back and remember those dark days of the early 1990s, it was a very daunting task at the time to take on the conflict in the local community. The interesting thing is that Alice has pioneered something that is replicable elsewhere, focusing on the preventative and educative element and that is what is needed”, he said. Deputy Rabbitte also pointed out that despite its successes, projects like the KDPPG are often under threat due to lack of funding, highlighting the possible termination for a similar project in Fettercairn. “The entire public funding for Fettercairn is less than it would cost to maintain one child in Mountjoy”, he added.

Killinarden Drug Primary Prevention group marks 10-year anniversary

The Killinarden Drug Primary Prevention Group (KDPPG) marked its 10-year anniversary with the meeting of people involved with the group over the last decade and launched an evaluation report. The report was compiled by Stephen Rourke who feels the group played an important role in improving the drugs situation in the area. “I think on the whole looking at their work, one would think of direct work with children and families, but also important developmental work has taken place. In Killinarden there are fewer deaths and serious illnesses, a whole range of rehabilitation programmes and a load of new youth and recreation facilities are available”. Speaking at the launch of the evaluation report Alice Murray, co-founder of the KDPPG, spoke of the difficulties in setting up the group. “We started in the days when it wasn’t politically correct to be involved in drug education, when a lot of people said we didn’t have a drugs problem, but we and it was here to stay”, she said.

Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte paid tribute to the work of the KDPPG. “Anybody who can cast their minds back and remember those dark days of the early 1990s, it was a very daunting task at the time to take on the conflict in the local community. The interesting thing is that Alice has pioneered something that is replicable elsewhere, focusing on the preventative and educative element and that is what is needed”, he said. Deputy Rabbitte also pointed out that despite its successes, projects like the KDPPG are often under threat due to lack of funding, highlighting the possible termination for a similar project in Fettercairn. “The entire public funding for Fettercairn is less than it would cost to maintain one child in Mountjoy”, he added.

Clondalkin has more than 170 homeless people

Source:'More than 170 people homeless in Clondalkin' : Echo - West Edition, p. 18, 26 Feb 2004

There are more than 170 people homeless in the Clondalkin area according to the co-ordinator of Clondalkin partnership, Mr Brian Keenan. Mr Keenan stressed family or relationship breakdown as the primary cause of homelessness, but cited other factors such as substance abuse and early release from prison, with the latter “a major cause because prisoners are released and have nowhere to go, and violence has also been a cause”. Mr Keenan stressed the role of the local community in dealing with homelessness. “It is important that these services are provided at local level rather than sending people into town. People who are homeless may still be at school, college or Fás training, and might need to be near family or friends. It is also important for local community workers and youth workers to be able to keep in contact with these people. It is important that the community takes responsibility for those people and tries to address their needs accordingly and facilitate their integration back into the community”, he said. More information is available by contacting Clondalkin Partnership at 4576433

February 25, 2004

Scaled-up harm-reduction measures are part of action programme

(Source:'Strong leadership to protect the people' : Irish Times, p.11, 25 Feb 2004)

The first item in the action programme adopted in Dublin Castle at the end of the two-day conference on HIV/AIDS in Europe and Central Asia was the promotion of strong government leadership to protect people from the virus. The Dublin Declaration also included the following measures in relation to drug treatment and harm reduction (edited version): Action 10. Scale up access for injecting drug users to prevention, drug dependence treatment and harm reduction services through promoting, enabling and strengthening the widespread introduction of prevention, drug dependence treatment and harm reduction programmes (e.g., needle and syringe programmes, bleach and condom distribution, voluntary HIV counselling and testing, substitution drug therapy, STI diagnosis and treatment) in line with national policies.

AIDS conference recommends strong focus on harm-reduction services for drug users

(Source:'Controversial drug services must be used to cut HIV risk' : Irish Independent, p. 6, 25 Feb 2004)

The EU conference on HIV/AIDS that ended yesterday in Dublin included among its key recommendations measures to reduce the possibility of injecting drug users contracting the virus by using infected needles or through unprotected sex. The final declaration of the conference, agreed by the 55 countries attending, recommends increasing access for injecting drug users to harm-reduction services, including syringe- and needle-exchange programmes, condom distribution, and methadone treatment. The recommendations were strongly endorsed by former president Mary Robinson who addressed the delegates. She blamed the spread of the disease on, among other things, ‘ineffective abstinence-only programmes, punitive treatment of drug users, and further marginalisation of at-risk groups’. The Swedish delegation insisted that the harm-reduction section of the final declaration (called the Dublin Declaration) be altered to include reference to ‘drug dependence treatment’. Sweden opposes harm-reduction programmes that are not accompanied by programmes aimed at curing addicts of their addiction; it bans needle-exchange programmes on the grounds that they encourage drug use.

February 24, 2004

Official AIDS figures questioned in Romania

(Source:'AIDS worker questions figures and treatment being offered' : Irish Times, p. 7, 24 Feb 2004)

The co-ordinator of the Romanian Association Against AIDS, has questioned the validity of official figures that suggest that only four of the 3,000 heroin users in Romania have the AIDS virus, despite the fact that 60 per cent of abusers are known to be hepatitis C positive. Ms Catalina Iliuta (24) is in charge of the harm- reduction programme in Bucharest and is involved in developing prevention programmes for the general public and at-risk groups. She also estimated that the real figure for HIV/AIDS infection in the population as a whole was five or six times the official figure of 14,000 confirmed cases. She also questioned the prime minister’s claim that there was universal access to treatment for all HIV infected patients in Romania. She said that while services had improved for infected children and their families, prevention measures such as ready access to clean syringes are not available to drug-users: ‘People who are current drug users do not get the treatment.’

Doctors accused of 'irresponsible' drug treatment

(Source:'Heroin Doctors' : Irish Daily Mirror, p. 31, 24 Feb 2004)

In a case before the UK General Medical Council, seven doctors are accused of serious professional misconduct in their controversial treatment of drug addicts at a clinic in Central London. Founded by one of the doctors under investigation, the clinic is believed to have operated a policy of long-term maintenance prescriptions of morphine, methadone and rohypnol to recovering heroin addicts, in contrast to the NHS’s tougher approach of weaning addicts off drugs. The doctors allegedly prescribed drugs that were the wrong type, in the wrong amounts and in ‘irresponsible’ combinations. The drug policy group Reform and some former addicts who had been helped by the clinic were at the hearing to support the doctors.

UN warns of high rates of HIV in EU accession countries

(Source:'HIV epidemic at EU doorstep after enlargement, warn UN experts' : Irish Examiner, p. 3, 24 Feb 2004)

UNAIDS, the United Nations AIDS programme, warned that EU enlargement would bring 1.5 million people infected with HIV to the doorstep of the EU. Speaking at the Dublin AIDS conference, UNAIDS Director, Dr Peter Piot, said the 10 accession countries comprise the world’s fastest growing area of HIV infection, with as many as one in 100 adults in the eastern European states and neighbouring Ukraine and Russia infected. The rise in HIV infection in the former Communist countries has been driven by high levels of heroin use, poverty and inequality caused by the transition to capitalism, said Dr Piot.

HIV cases up by 32% in six months to June 2003

(Source:'Number of new HIV cases in Ireland jumps by 32%' : Irish Examiner, p. 3, 24 Feb 2004)
The National Disease Surveillance Centre (NDSC) reported 207 newly diagnosed of HIV infection in the first half of 2003, a rise of 32% on the figure for the same period in 2002. Of this number, 14 were intravenous drug users. The total number of people infected was 3,216 as at the end of June 2003. Twenty-five per cent of cases for which data is available were born in Ireland. Dublin AIDS Alliance expressed concern at the sharp increase and claimed that the climate of cutbacks limited the agency’s ability to respond effectively to the
growing need for services.

February 23, 2004

‘Random drug testing in schools will drive problem underground’

(Source:'Anger as Blair backs random drug testing for students' : Irish Independent, p. 22, 23 Feb 2004)

Plans to introduce random drug testing in Britain’s schools have provoked anger from drugs charities. One spokesperson felt that the move would drive the drug problem “further underground” and destroy relationships of trust between teachers and pupils. This angry reaction follows an interview where the Prime Minister Mr Tony Blair advocated the use of random drug tests in schools. “We can’t force them to do it but if heads believe they have a problem in their school then they should be able to do random drug testing”, he said. The chief executive of the drugs charity Drugscope said that the plan would do nothing to reduce drug abuse in schools.

February 22, 2004

Irish people take most tranquillisers in Europe

Source:'Irish top of the pill poppers' : Sunday Mirror, p. 23, 22 Feb 2004

A poll of European countries has ranked Ireland as highest in benzodiazapene users. Benzodiazapenes are the medical name for prescribed tranquillisers such as valium. It has emerged that Irish doctors give out twice as many valium prescriptions as doctors in Portugal, the second highest country on the list. It also emerged that tranquilliser use among medical card users has tripled since 1996.

February 21, 2004

Youth referred for mental care after cannabis psychosis

(Source:'Youth sent for urgent mental care' : Irish Independent, p. 11 21 Feb 2004)

A 17-year old Nigerian youth has been sent to the Central Mental Hospital for psychiatric attention after a sitting of the Dublin Children’s Court. The youth had suffered a cannabis induced psychotic episode and was arrested on Wednesday after creating a disturbance at the Mater Hospital, Dublin, where he had been referred to for treatment for his psychosis.

February 20, 2004

Urine samples sold to avoid drug detection

(Source:'Drug inmates in urine scam' : Irish Daily Mirror, p. 4, 20 Feb 2004)

New security measures are to be brought in at Limerick Prison as it has emerged that drug taking inmates are buying “clean” urine from other prisoners in order to pass drug tests. A recently-released prisoner said: “Urine samples were often sold for money, cigarettes or even drugs. This would be a way for prisoners who use drugs to pass the tests”. To overcome this problem a new secure drug-testing unit is part of a new €10 million wing at the prison

Memory loss and learning difficulty linked with cocaine use

(Source:'Cocaine could cause brain damage, says study' : Irish Examiner, p. 11, 20 Feb 2004)

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and US scientists have shown that cocaine use can cause long-term memory loss and learning difficulties. The study on genetically modified mice showed that cocaine destroyed PSD-95, a protein directly linked to learning and long-term memory. In mice exposed to cocaine PSD-95 levels dropped by half. The work was published in the journal Neuron.

February 18, 2004

SWAHB falls short of methadone treatment targets

(Source:'Methadone waiting list rises by 20%' : Medicine Weekly, 18 February 2004 8(7), p.23. 18 Feb 2004)
The South Western Area Health Board (SWAHB) acknowledged a 20 per cent increase in the number of drug users awaiting methadone treatment in the Board area in 2003 (up from 107 individuals in 2002 to 129 in 2003) and admitted that many of those seeking treatment would continue to experience long waiting lists. The Board’s CEO Mr Pat Donnelly acknowledged that treatment targets were not being reached in the Ballyfermot/Clondalkin, Tallaght and Dublin 8 areas and said that the situation was unlikely to improve in the absence of relevant development monies and capital investment. More than half of the 129 addicts on the current waiting list are waiting for the methadone treatment programme at the Ashling Clinic, 20 per cent await a place on the Tallaght programme, and 10 per cent at the St James’s Clinic. According to Mr Donnelly, an additional 214 new patients were admitted onto programmes in 2003, making a total of 2,588, compared to 2,430 in 2002.

Review of methadone treatment services

Full review of methadone services planned by ERHA
(Source: 'ERHA plans full-scale review of methadone treatment services' : Medicine Weekly, 18 February 2004, 8(7), p.14, 18 Feb 2004)
In line with its Service Plan for 2004, the ERHA will this year undertake a full-scale review of methadone treatment services, which it hopes will identify a best practice model for a holistic response to drug users. The review will deal with issues such as expanding capacity, increasing GP participation, and alternative treatments such as buprenorphine. The numbers currently accessing methadone treatment, 6,883 clients in December 2003, have exceeded ERHA targets. Regional CEO of the EERHA Mr Michael Lyons said that in defining the best practice model the Authority would look at the profile and needs of existing methadone clients, including long-term/chaotic drug users, and a review of the effectiveness of the 47 drug treatment and satellite clinics. The service requirements of specific groups of clients, such as adolescents, the homeless, those with psychiatric illness, ethnic minorities and Travellers, will be considered.

February 17, 2004

Major Dublin conference on AIDS

(Source: 'Dublin hosts major conference on AIDS' : Irish Times Misc., p. 1, 17 Feb 2004)
The Taoiseach Mr Ahern will officially open a major two-day conference on HIV and AIDS in Dublin Castle on Monday 23 February. The conference, entitled ‘Breaking the Barriers: Partnership to Fight HIV/AIDS in Europe and Central Asia’, is an important event in Ireland's EU presidency. A total of 55 health and development ministers from Europe and Asia are scheduled to attend. According to Minister of State for Overseas Development, Mr Tom Kitt, the UN urged the government to give this issue prominence on the EU political agenda. ‘They believe that there is a tendency in this region to see HIV/AIDS as n exclusively African problem.’ Mr Kitt said the disease was spreading in this region at an alarming rate. A Draft Declaration for discussion by the conference includes among its targets: elimination of HIV infection among infants by 2010; ensuring that 80 per cent of injecting drug users have access to treatment and harm reduction services including HIV counselling and testing by 2005; ensuring that at least 90 per cent of 15-24-year-olds have access to HIV information and education. An earlier draft of the declaration was severely criticised on various grounds by Dochas, the umbrella body of Irish development aid agencies.

February 16, 2004

new designer drugs are just a click away

(Source: 'Goodbye ecstasy, hello 5-Meo-DMT: new designer drugs are just a click away ' The Guardian, 16 Feb 2004)
According to the Guardian, British recreational drug users are turning to a new generation of designer drugs from the United States as demand for ecstasy plummets. The majority of these new drugs are powerful synthetic psychedelics from the same chemical families as LSD, magic mushrooms and mescaline.

These new "research chemicals" are synthesised by commercial labs, often based in the US, which openly sell their products on the internet. International differences over legality has fuelled the rapid growth in the transatlantic online trade in such chemicals.

While Britain has outlawed all of these drugs - under an amendment to the Misuse Of Drugs Act in February 2002 - they remain legal in most other countries, including the majority of EU member states. Even in the US, despite some of the most draconian anti-drug laws in the world, the bulk of research chemicals are legal to manufacture, sell, possess and consume.
Full Text

234% rise in HIV over last 6 years

(Source: 'HIV cases rose 234% in last six years' : Irish Examiner, p. 1, 16 Feb 2004)
The National Disease Surveillance Centre (NDSC) has released figures that show that the numbers of newly diagnosed HIV infections has increased by 234% over the last six years. The NDSC has also shown that of the 364 new cases in 2002, 63.5% of the cases were acquired by heterosexual contact. Dr Joe Barry of the Eastern Regional Health Authority has said that intravenous drug users were still at the highest risk of infection. The upward trend in HIV cases here is due to people who are arriving from sub-Saharan Africa, where an epidemic of HIV has taken hold. The NDSC cautioned any conclusions from this data in this regard, adding that “it is important to remember that people from sub-Saharan Africa do not form a homogenous group and includes students, immigrant workers, refugees, economic migrants, asylum seekers and others”.

One- third of recreational cocaine users will become addicted

(Source: 'Addiction faces one in the three cocaine users, warns expert' : Irish Independent, p. 13, 16 Feb 2004)
Dr Des Corrigan of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) has urged for more research into recreational users of cocaine in order to plan the level of services needed in the future. “We have to find out some way of reaching out to this group to find out exactly what’s happening. Some may be in a honeymoon period and they’re having a good time now. We don’t know how soon the negative effects are going to kick in”, said Dr Corrigan. “It wont happen for everyone, but it what proportion will lose control? It’s that kind of information that we need”, he added. International evidence shows that among recreational users of cocaine, one-third will develop an addiction.

Seven doctors accused of breaking heroin rules

(Source: 'Doctors at top drugs clinic face charges': The Guardian, 16 Feb 2004)
Seven doctors at a leading private clinic face disciplinary action over claims they illegally prescribed a heroin substitute to addicts.

The medical staff from London's Stapleford Centre have been accused of breaking strict rules on prescribing methadone. Dr Colin Brewer, regarded as one of the world's foremost experts on dealing with heroin addiction, as well as other senior members of staff have been implicated.

The seven Stapleford Centre doctors will appear before the General Medical Council next week after a long Home Office investigation. If found guilty of the charges they could be struck off.

Full Text

February 14, 2004

Gaelic club implements after school club emphasising health

(Source: 'Isles give homework some respectability' : Evening Herald, p. 56, 14 Feb 2004)
Erin’s Isle, a Gaelic Athletic Association club, has pioneered a project called ‘First Touch’ which aims to develop children in an after school environment that will help them in their studies, but also in their future lifestyle choices. Coaching chief Declan Power has stated: “Our wish is to help the kids to have a healthy lifestyle that they can take with them. It’s a unique venture and we are delighted with it. Our aim is to teach the kids that education is important. We encourage them to work hard in the classroom, to do well in their exams, eventually, perhaps, attend university and secure a good job for the road of life”, he said. Part of this Mr Power feels will be by highlighting “the dreadful effects that abuse of alcohol, smoking and other harmful drugs can have on the body”.

February 13, 2004

‘Easy Access’ scheme launched by Carlow Drugs Initiative

(Source: 'New service to help those with drugs problems' : Nationalist Carlow, p. 3, 13 Feb 2004)
Carlow Drugs Initiative have launched “Easy Access”, a new information service for those seeking help in dealing with substance abuse and addiction. Drug prevention courses, community leadership training programmes and peer education will also be provided. Melanie Miller, drug prevention worker with Carlow Drugs Initiative said that drug abuse among young people can lead to problems in family interactions: “Often these difficulties lead to tensions in the relationships and more consumption of the substance in order to be able to cope with these. For many people and their family members these issues can start to take up a lot of energy and strength, and sometimes the question arises, who could be of help during that time”.

February 11, 2004

Tighter controls on tranquilliser prescription

(Source: 'Cut down on tranquilliser prescriptions, GPs warned' : The Guardian (Online), 11 Feb 2004)
The UK chief medical officer has warned that over-prescribing of tranquillisers is exposing thousands of patients to potential addiction and damage to their health. Doctors prescribe drugs such as Valium and Librium to an estimated one million people a year. About 170,000 people are thought to misuse benzodiazepines each year, often using drugs obtained from GPs either by exaggerating their daily consumption or by registering with different GPs. Benzodiazepines were implicated in 222 drug-related deaths in 2001, nearly four times the number linked to amphetamines and one in 13 of all drug-related deaths. Because many GPs do not observe the prescription guidelines introduced 15 years ago, the government is about to introduce new restrictions on the use of these common tranquillisers. Patients will have to return to their pharmacists several times to collect capsules or tablets over the course of treatment – a measure aimed at reducing dependence on the drugs and preventing legally dispensed medicine being siphoned off to the illegal drugs trade.

February 10, 2004

High rates of hepatitis C in prisons

(Source: 'Prisons hepatitis epidemic' : Irish Daily Star, p. 20, 10 Feb 2004)
Up to 80 per cent of all injecting drug users in Irish jails are suffering from hepatitis C according to the Prison Reform Trust. In calling for measures to halt the spread of the disease, the trust chief Mr Rick Lines said: ‘This situation clearly calls for urgent action by the Minister to prevent the further spread of disease by providing access to sterile syringes to drug-using prisoners and to provide treatment for those infected.’

Irish public's attitude to cannabis is tested

(Source: 'Would you mind if I smoke in this joint?' : Irish Independent, p. 15, 10 Feb 2004)
The change in the law in Britain to remove cannabis from the list of hard drugs has left a grey area in relation to smoking joints in public places in the UK, with regional police forces differing in their attitudes. Cannabis is still illegal in Ireland and an attempt to ‘test the waters’ here with perfectly harmless herbal cigarettes met with mixed reactions from a barman, a taxi driver, a patrolling garda and some security guards. Overall, the reactions were firm, professional and well-informed. Privately, several people said they hoped the law here would change in line with the UK.

Change in system of prescribing to drug users

(Source: 'Drugs action' : Irish Examiner, p. 5, 10 Feb 2004)
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Children said yesterday that arrangements had been made to tighten up the system for supplying tranquillisers to drug addicts. The measures were aimed at reducing the sources of multi-prescribing to known drug users and applied to health board drug treatment clinics and general practitioners. She said a key recommendation of the Department’s 2002 Expert Committee on Benzodiazepines, covering good practice guidelines to clinicans, had been implemented.

Methadone Deaths Not Linked to Misuse of Methadone from Treatment Centers

Methadone-associated deaths are not being caused primarily by methadone diverted from methadone treatment programs, a panel of experts convened by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), reported. The methadone report was released today by SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment Director, H. Westley Clark, M.D., J.D., M.P.H., at the Sixth International Conference on Pain and Chemical Dependency in New York City. Full Text

February 09, 2004

Beat the Benzos: A Call for European Union Guidelines on Prescribing of Benzodiazepines

Beat the Benzos: A Call for European Union Guidelines on Prescribing of Benzodiazepines, Europes moste Harmful Drugs. Read More

Ecstasy use and memory loss

(Source: 'On a high at weekend, but hitting a low during the week' by Cormac O Keefe: Irish Examiner p. 6, 09 Feb 2004)
Research in England has recently shown that ecstasy users are 23 per cent more likely to suffer from long-term memory problems compared to non-drug users. The damage is related to the level and intensity of use; however moderate users have also experienced some memory loss. Dr. Des Corrigan of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) believes the study is credible given the large sample size used and the fact that the research results ties in with other research. However he cautions against jumping to conclusions.

Dr. Eamon Keenan, clinical psychiatrist in the ERHA, is concerned that the current emphasis on cocaine is displacing the emphasis on ecstasy use. He is concerned that ecstasy use is becoming ‘acceptable’ and has seen patients presenting with depression from both long and short-term ecstasy use. Although these cases usually occur in heavy users, casual users may also be affected. In chronic cases, a pre-existing psychological problem may be triggered by ecstasy use.

Despite the availability of the drug during the last 14 years, drug treatment services do not reflect major problems associated with ecstasy. Research from the Health Research Board has shown that 3% of all cases of drug treatment were for ecstasy use in 2000. Between 1996 and 2000, a total of 2,170 people were treated for ecstasy use. The number of people treated for ecstasy has increased by 32% between 1996 and 2000, with the largest increases outside the eastern area of the country.

Getting an understanding of the current ecstasy trends is difficult, due to the lack of reliable indicators in Ireland. Drug seizure figures often exclude seizures made bound for Ireland but bound for this jurisdiction. However the figures do indicate an increase since 1998. A recent NACD survey found that 3.8 per cent of the population (15 – 64 year olds) had taken ecstasy at least once over a lifetime. Usage for the previous year indicated that 1 per cent of the population had taken ecstasy, approximately 14, 530 people. These figures contrast with the large numbers of ecstasy seized by the Gardaí.

A survey of drug use among the Irish population by the NACD published last Octiber provided lower prevalence figures than other studies on drug use in Ireland.

Prices are also a good indicator of availability with ecstasy tablets now on sale for as little as €5 - €10. Overall, ecstasy use and availability has increased and recent research indicates that the risks may also be increasing.

Cheap ecstasy floods Ireland

(Source: Irish markets 'being flooded with cheap ecstasy' : The Examiner, p. 6, 09 Feb 2004)
According to Garda sources, Ireland is being flooded with large quantities of cheap ecstasy. Last year around two million ecstasy tablets seized by Gardaí, more than the cumulative seizures of the previous seven years.
This amount may be as little as 10 per cent of the actual amount coming into the country according to some senior Gardaí. Last month saw a seizure of 500,000 tablets in County Laois, destined for the Cork, Limerick and Galway markets. Ecstasy can now be bought on the street for €5 - €7 though they can cost as little as 10 cent each at source, creating a large profit margin for dealers. Europol, the EU police agency has noted that manufacturing of the drug has shifted to the EU accession countries.

February 08, 2004

4 test positive in Army

(Source: Forces drugs tests shock, Sunday Mirror, p. 26, 08 Feb 2004)
Under compulsory testing, four members of the Irish armed forces have tested positive for illegal drug use. According to Defence Minister Michael Smith, the target of testing 10 per cent of the defence forces has been achieved. Since November 1992, 1,402 members, chosen randomly from all ranks, have been tested.

Using tests similar to those used to test athletes, a range of drugs have been tested for, including cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine, amphetamines and heroin.
Minister Smith said "the implications of drug abuse in an organisation where personnel have access to firearms are too obvious to require elaboration. While there have been relatively few drug related problems in the defence forces, it is recognised that the defence forces, as a component of the wider community, mirror the community at large."

The primary objective of the testing is deterrence, according to Minister Smith. "A randomly selected member of the permanent defence force may be required at any time to provide a urine sample which will be tested." Any member with a confirmed positive test is discharged or retired. Details were not released regarding the rank of the individuals who were caught.

February 07, 2004

Prisoners fear transfer to drug filled jails

(Source: 'Lags terrified of drug filled jails' : The Sun, p. 20, 07 Feb 2004)
Prisoners from Spike Island, who are being transferred to new prisons, are fearful of encountering drugs in their new accommodation, according to their chaplain Father Desmond Campion. The Cork-based prison is due to close on Monday, due to ongoing problems between prison staff and the Department of Justice over pay.
Inmates will be moved to St. Patricks institution in Dublin and Cork and Limerick prisons. The inmates, many in their 20s, are dreading leaving the virtually drug free island for perceived drug ridden prisons on the mainland.
Recent figures from Mountjoy prison show that more than six in ten inmates have a heroin habit. One in five prison addicts use a syringe for the first time while behind bars. A Prison Service source admitted: "Drugs are a serious problem in many Irish detention facilities. "Spike Island was quite unique in that virtually all inmates were clean."

February 05, 2004

Minister questioned on Drugs Strategy

(Source: 'Use of cocaine as ‘recreational drug’ a growing problem' : Irish Times, p. 7, 05 Feb 2004)
Questions arose about the increasing use of recreational drugs, particularly cocaine, at an Oireachtas committee meeting as Minister of State Noel Ahern gave an update on the National Drugs Strategy. The Minister said that while the Strategy introduced in 2001 focused primarily on heroin, it was not ‘written in stone’ and, if needed, the emphasis could be changed. Mr Fergus O’Dowd TD (FG) said there was no strategy on cocaine despite the evidence that more young people were using it, and that the Minister was under-estimating the problem. The Minister said the main emphasis for under-18s was education about the addictive nature of so-called recreational drugs. He said that fewer young men were becoming hooked on heroin, seeing it as ‘a bit of a loser’s drug’. Questioned about cannabis, the Minister said the government was not considering changing it from its present status as a ‘schedule 1’ drug. Asked why alcohol was not included in the Strategy, he agreed that it was a huge problem that was being addressed by the Minister for Health. He thought there should be links between the strategies on drugs and alcohol and cross-representation in working groups and committees.

February 04, 2004

Opposition TDs call for debate on drug law

(Source:'Opposition wants debate on drug law' : Irish Independent, p. 6, 04 Feb 2004)
Labour and Green Party deputies united in a call for a review of cannabis laws in Ireland following the downgrading of the drug in the UK. Labour’s Justice spokesman Joe Costello said too much police time was taken up with cannabis – a drug far less dangerous than heroin. He called for debate on the medical use of cannabis in the light of the sanctioning of trials of the drug’s efficacy in relieving cancer pain, in Cork and Waterford. The Green Party Justice spokesman Ciaran Cuffe, also called for debate on the issue. Fianna Fail deputy and chairman of the Oireachtas Health Committee, Mr Batt O’Keeffe, insisted that we should not ‘slavishly follow’ Britain’s line, saying: ‘I am strongly convinced that there should be no laxity in discouraging cannabis use.’

February 03, 2004

Success stories of adolescent drug treatment centre

(Source: 'Parents to tell how nun saved their addicted children' : Irish Times, p. 2, 03 Feb 2004)
A documentary to be broadcast by RTE One next week highlights the success achieved by a pioneering drug and alcohol treatment centre for adolescents run by a Mercy nun in the Aislinn Centre in Ballyragget, Co Kilkenny.

The programme also tells the stories of parents whose children have become involved with drugs. Sister Veronica Mangan, director of the Centre, says: ‘The whole ethos of the programme is based on respect and dignity – it’s our belief they have suffered enough before they come to us.’ Would You Believe ‘Twelve Steps to Freedom’ will be shown on Thursday, 5 February at 10.10pm on RTE One.

Work of Drug Task Forces eroded in recent years

(Source: 'Drug task forces' : Irish Examiner, p. 4 03 Feb 2004)
Labour leader Pat Rabbitte took issue with the Taoiseach’s avowed commitment to tackle the drugs problem (made at a Commemoration Service in Dublin on Sunday night), saying that the experience of communities affected by drugs does not bear out that commitment. H said: ‘In fact, the tremendous work achieved in the early years by the Local Drugs Task Forces has been eroded by a combination of penny-pinching on projects and bureaucratic oppression of projects.’

Appeal Court increases drug sentence

(Source: 'Heroin sentence too lenient' : Irish Times, p. 4, 03 Feb 2004)
A man found in possession of heroin valued at €260,000 has had his sentence increased from five to seven years by the Court of Criminal Appeal. The DPP’s office claimed that the original sentence, imposed in August 2003, was unduly lenient. Counsel for the DPP argued at the Appeal that Mr Padraig Doyle, who was not a vulnerable individual, was profiting on a large scale from his drug dealing, and had not been compelled to do what he was doing. Counsel for Doyle argued that the original sentence of five years was appropriate, given that his client had pleaded guilty. He also pleaded in mitigation that Doyle had been selected by the Samaritans to become involved in a programme to prevent suicide in prison.

Call for alternatives to methadone treatment for young drug users

(Source: 'Call for urgent review of methadone programme' : Irish Times, p. 8, 03 Feb 2004)
A report written by Jim Cumberton of the Drugs Prevention Alliance has called for an urgent review of the government’s Methadone Maintenance Programme The report criticises the treatment services’ reliance on methadone, which is more physically addictive than heroin, claiming it is a demotivating drug that perpetuates addiction among young users. The report says: ‘A consequence of the emphasis on methadone maintenance is that there has been only a marginal increase in the availability of detoxification and drug-free treatment for heroin addiction.’ There are fewer than 40 detoxification beds in the State and more than 7,000 registered methadone users. The report says that early drug-free intervention is crucial and more cost-effective in the long run and calls for a major increase in detoxification facilities for those aged under 20.

February 02, 2004

Rise in number of drug-related deaths

(Source: 'Inner city drug problem worsening, says activist' : Irish Times, p3 02 Feb 2004)
More people have died as a result of drug use in the inner city in Dublin during the past year than in any year previously, according to one activist. Speaking at the fifth annual Service of Commeration and Hope in Sean McDermott Street, Ms Sadie Grace of the the Citywide Family Support Network said eight people had died during a 10-week period last summer. However, it is difficult to get accurate figures for drug-related deaths. Ms Grace said a an index of drug-related deaths was being established and this is urgently needed. While the true figure is hard to estimate there was a feeling in local communities that the numbers had increased over the past year.

Taoiseach committed to dealing with drugs problem.

(Source: 'Ahern 'committed' to tackling drugs scourge.' : Irish Independent, p. 7 02 Feb 2004)
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern TD, speaking at a commeration service for people who have died as a result of drug use, restated his government's commitment to dealing with the drugs problem. The Taoiseach said that the drugs problem was continually changing and the strategy to deal with must be flexible. He said it was a major concern to the Cabinet Committee on Social Exclusion as drug use is a symptom of social disadvantage. The Government had allocated €135m to a range of initiatives in areas most heavily affected by drugs.

January 30, 2004

Buprenorphine to be used in pilot trials

(Source: 'Methadone alternative' : Irish Medical Times, p. 1, 30 Jan 2004)
Dr Brion Sweeny, a consultant in the Drug Misuse Group, reported from a fact finding trip in the United States and suggested a pilot trial for buprenorphine as an alternative to methadone. Dr Sweeny visited health professionals involved in drug misuse treatment in New York, Philadelphia, Washington and Baltimore. He also met with the national co-ordinator of the buprenorphine programme in the US. The consultant’s group has received regular updates on the alternative to methadone and communicates its findings to the Irish Medicines Board and the Department of Health.

January 29, 2004

Irish users call for lowering of criminal status of cannabis

(Source: 'Cannabis users urge the reclassification of drug ' : Irish Examiner, p. 8, 29 Jan 2004)
There have been calls from cannabis users in Ireland for downgrading the criminal status of the drug, following the reclassification brought into effect today in Britain and Northern Ireland. The downgrading of cannabis from class B to class C in the UK will mean, in practice, that users aged over 18 will be able to smoke in their own homes without fear of arrest. They are liable to get a police caution for smoking cannabis in public. A spokesman for Cannabis Ireland said his organisation would like to see the government here take control of the supply of cannabis in the way the Dutch government has done.

January 28, 2004

UK switches to more effective Hepatitis C treatment

(Source: 'Go-ahead for hepatitis C drug ' : The Guardian [Online], 28 Jan 2004)

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has given its endorsement of the drug pegylated interferon, usually taken in combination with another anti-viral drug, for the treatment of the chronic liver disease caused by hepatitis C. The UK government announced the switch to the more effective and expensive treatments as part of its battle against Hepatitis C, one of Britain's most serious public health threats. Only about 2,000 patients are thought to be currently using either pegylated interferon or the more standard interferon alpha, but that number is expected to grow rapidly, using regimes which could be £3,200 more expensive for each patient. Even conservative estimates put the extra cost at around £11m a year.

Schools' drug-awareness education may be counter-productive

(Source: 'Drugs education criticised' : Irish Times, p. 2, 28 Jan 2004)

The present method of giving schoolchildren information about drugs may be counter-productive, according to Mr Willie Collins, co-ordinator of drug and alcohol services for the Southern Health Board. He was speaking at a seminar in Cork yesterday. He said that talks given to students by former drug-users might cause children to indulge in drug use out of curiosity. He felt the subject should be discussed in depth in the classroom by the teacher. The co-author of a book on drug education, Ms Liz Kiely, referred to a 1980 study addressing the credibility problem inherent in efforts to raise drug awareness; the study traced the problem to ‘an exaggerated demonisation of young people’s drugs without adequate reference to scientific fact or to the negative aspects of “respectable” adult drugs like alcohol and tobacco. ‘

Public hype about drugs ignores more serious alcohol problems

(Source: 'An Irishman’s Diary' : Irish Times, p. 19, 28 Jan 2004)

The widespread media coverage of all aspects of the drugs problem in Ireland and the failure of elected representatives to discuss the matter intelligently obscure the fact that alcohol is, in fact, a much more serious problem in this society, causing more poverty, mental illness, misery and death. And, unlike cigarettes and alcohol, illicit drugs don’t raise revenue for the Exchequer. It is so obvious it is hardly worth saying – recreational drug use can inflict long-term damage to mental health. Drug-taking is usually a stupid thing, but not as bad as banning all narcotics, thus playing into the hands of criminal drug dealers. The State ‘with unerring ineptitude and arrogant stupidity’ has given such people a monopoly over the supply of recreational drugs ‘the most profitable consumer item know to mankind’. The criminalisation of heroin has caused it to remain ‘ludicrously high’ in price, leading its primary victims, working-class teenagers, into lives of crime and prostitution to feed their addiction. If they end up in jail, these people will find that getting heroin or cocaine in our prisons is ‘like getting rice in a Chinese restaurant’. The State’s drug policy is ‘not only counter-productive’ but also cruel in that it deprives those with cancer or MS of the relief offered by cannabis.

January 27, 2004

Fears for drugs scheme

(Source: Irish Times 27 January 2004, Supplement, page 3)
Violence and intimidation are threatening one of the best treatment options for drug addicts, writes Dr Muiris Houston, Medical Correspondent.

The Methadone Treatment Protocol, first introduced in 1998, means thousands of former heroin addicts have been treated in a community setting, with enormous benefit to society, health professionals and individuals affected by drug addiction.

"It represents a huge improvement to what went on 10 years ago, when heroin was openly sold in front of my practice premises," one southside Dublin GP told The Irish Times.

Working in a four-doctor practice he reckons that half of the 40 patients they treat as part of the scheme are "super- stabilised", able to hold down full-time jobs and lead a relatively normal life.

However, not all addicts achieve such stability. Those treated by doctors in satellite clinics range across the entire spectrum of addiction.

People recently released from prison, those with a cross-addiction to alcohol or benzodiazepines (sleeping tablets and relaxants) and patients with active psychiatric problems can be unstable. Such instability can render the person violent and unable to tolerate short- term hitches in the supply of methadone.

One northside Dublin pharmacist says 50 per cent of his methadone clients come from such clinics. "A typical problem patient may have had their medication changed or have fallen out with the clinic doctor and arrive at the pharmacy upset and angry" he says.

Recently, such a client became violent in the pharmacy, forced his way into the dispensary area, grabbed a bottle of methadone from a pharmacy assistant leaving her traumatised. But other attacks throughout the eastern region have involved more than just threatening behaviour.

In one satellite clinic a gun was held to the head of a staff member. In a separate incident a southside pharmacist was confronted by a person covered in blood who stabbed him with a syringe before stealing a quantity of methadone.

It is incidents like these that led the Irish Pharmaceutical Union to ask for a review of the Methadone Programme. In a submission to the Department of Health in September, 2002, it stated: "at this point in time there is no way of dealing with patients who are disruptive and abusive and the whole issue of discipline, including withholding methadone medication, is a litigious minefield."

In contrast to those working in health board treatment clinics, community pharmacists are not provided with security guards. "Security of staff and premises is a major issue and yet no proper consideration has been given to it," the IPU says. A spokeswoman for the union said yesterday: "None of these issues have been dealt with to date."

The problems outlined by individual pharmacists and the IPU appear to contravene a commitment given under section 16 of the original 1998 "Protocol for Initiation of Methadone Dispensing Service in Community Pharmacy". It states: "as far as possible, more difficult patients, those with dual diagnosis, in particular personality disorders, history of serious violence, alcohol problems or psychiatric disorders, will not be dispensed methadone by community pharmacists but will be treated at central level."

But another northside pharmacist told The Irish Times that "90 per cent of methadone patients are fine. It is the other 10 per cent who are causing a crisis within the system. We need Department of Health/health board protocols strengthened to deal with the situation".

Six years after its launch, the Methadone protocol may well be a victim of its own success. The latest figures show treatment facilities increasing by over a third in areas outside the Eastern Regional Health Authority (ERHA). An internal ERHA review of the programme for 2002/2003 says "there has been an increase in the number of patients being treated". It also noted a 13 per cent increase in the number of patients awaiting treatment in October, 2003, compared to a year earlier. A recent report from the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) found it was seven to 12-times more cost effective to treat methadone patients in a community pharmacy setting com- pared to a State-run clinic. This finding underlines how important pharmacists are to the national drug treatment strategy.

Prof Tom O'Dowd, professor of community health and general practice, at Trinity College, Dublin, says: "the pharmacies are a crucial part of the methadone maintenance programme. The drug problem could not have been addressed without the community pharmacy. There is a need to have this recognised by the Department of Health and Health Boards."

Methadone patients are prescribed and receive the drug in three ways. They may attend a doctor in a central clinic and receive methadone on site. Others attend a health board satellite clinic, see a doctor and have the methadone dispensed in a community pharmacy. This may involve taking the liquid on the premises under the pharmacists supervision. Many stable patients attend their own GP and receive methadone from their local pharmacist.

Methadone and other drugs used to treat opiate addiction

Methadone is synthetic drug belonging to the opioid group. It is widely used to replace morphine or heroin in the treatment of drug dependence. In this situation methadone is given once daily in liquid form to prevent symptoms of withdrawal in a person who has been smoking or injecting heroin. In some patients the dose of methadone can be reduced to the point where the drug is no longer needed; others require long-term treatment.

Its first widespread clinical use was in US Army veterans returning from Vietnam. Some soldiers had been injecting morphine while on service in South East Asia.

Because of the length of time that methadone stays active in the body it is ideal as a once a day drug. It works by locking on to opiate receptors in the brain so that even if a person was to inject heroin they do not experience the usual "buzz".

However it can be difficult to withdraw from completely. Methadone is currently the drug of choice in the Republic for the treatment of heroin addiction.

In France, the first choice treatment is a drug called buprenorphine, with methadone used as a back-up. Buprenorphine comes in tablet form and is dissolved under the tongue. Patients take it three times a week. It is accepted that buprenorphine is easier to completely withdraw from than methadone.

Now that we are seeing a different cohort of younger addicts who are smoking heroin, experts here agree that it may be time to consider using buprenorphine as first line treatment at least in some patients. '

In a study published this month in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, a small number of addicts were given a "depot" formulation of buprenorphine. The injection contained tiny capsules that when injected slowly disintegrate in the body releasing small amounts of the drug over a period of weeks. Researchers concluded that a single shot of the drug was effective and offered the prospect of making heroin treatment more flexible.

Other treatment options include a drug called lofexadine. It is a detoxification drug - in other words it is only suitable for short term use. Lofexadine is used in this country on a named patient basis only; it suits patients who have succeeded in reducing their methadone dose to 10 -15m mls per day but are finding it difficult to finally come off methadone. by Dr. Muiris Houston
(Source: Irish Times 27 January 2004, Supplement, Page 3)

Drug aid treatment on brink of collapse

by Dr Muiris Houston, Medical Correspondent

The methadone treatment programme for drug addicts, which has been in operation since 1998, is on the "point of collapse" in the Dublin area, the Irish Pharmaceutical Union (IPU) has warned.
The Irish Times has learned that individual pharmacists in the Dublin area have already begun sending patients back to central health board clinics in advance of possible official strike action by the IPU.
According to latest treatment figures, 6,886 people addicted to heroin and morphine are receiving treatment in the Republic. A total of 96 per cent of these are being treated in the Eastern Regional Health Authority (ERHA) area.

Pharmacists say the methadone treatment protocol is now unworkable because of a growing trend for health boards to refer "unstabilised methadone patients" to community pharmacies which they say is in breach of agreed conditions.

"There has been a gradual decline in management controls in the Dublin area," according to one pharmacist, "with patients turning up in a confrontational state at pharmacies following attendance at satellite clinics." He blamed constantly changing medical personnel and a lack of ongoing communication for the growing problem.

While many patients on long-term methadone therapy are stable, those who are beginning treatment or who have a separate psychiatric problem can be unstable leading to aggressive and violent behaviour.

Under the terms of the protocol which pharmacists signed up to six years ago, if a patient destabilises while on methadone treatment, he should be removed from the local pharmacists list. The 1998 protocol also states, "more difficult patients ... will not be dispensed methadone by community pharmacists but will be treated at a central level".

A number of pharmacists who spoke to The Irish Times claimed an increasing number of unstable methadone patients are being referred to them because of pressure from health boards. However, this was denied by spokesmen for both the northern area (NAHB) and south-western area (SWAHB) health boards of the ERHA.

Of 272 patients waiting for treatment in the region at the end of October 2003, 51 per cent are from SWAHB and 18 per cent from the NAHB. Eight per cent were waiting more than 12 months for treatment.

A further indication of the ongoing pressure for drug treatment places is the peak of 327 people who were waiting to enter the methadone programme in July last year.

A withdrawal from the methadone treatment programme by pharmacists in the Dublin area would lead to the effective collapse of the scheme - 64 per cent of participating pharmacies are in the ERHA, with only 104 based elsewhere in the State.

The IPU said that, because of local objections and the severe shortage of public funds, new clinics are prevented from opening in the Dublin area, leaving existing health board clinics overstretched.

It accepts that the majority of methadone patients cause no problem for pharmacists but that a minority of chaotic patients has "resulted in a significant rise in violent attacks against pharmacists and pharmacy staff".

These attacks have included needlestick injuries and gun attacks, pharmacists have reported.

A spokesman for the NAHB said it had "received no reports of complaints in its area of physical attacks on community pharmacists".

However, he acknowledged there were instances of verbal abuse and threatening behaviour. A SWAHB spokesman said it only placed "appropriate patients - those who are stabilised" with community pharmacists.

He said that in a situation where a patient relapsed "the board can act quickly to have that patient transferred back to a treatment centre".

A general practitioner who also provides a medical service at a satellite clinic said a possible solution to the problem may be to allow a health board pharmacist formally assess a patient prior to referral to a community pharmacist.

Dr Ide Delargy, Drug Misuse Programme director at the Irish College of General Practitioners, said recent research looking at the attitude of GPs in the programme had shown positive feedback.

"I am satisfied that GPs and pharmacists are working well together in the methadone programme

January 26, 2004

Minister Martin announces television campaign to kick start year two of drugs awareness campaign

Research Highlights Need for More Information

The importance of providing ever-more information about drugs for parents and children alike was highlighted in the findings of new research conducted by the Health Promotion Unit of the Department of Health and Children. The research, which was carried out as part of a three-year Drugs Awareness Campaign being implemented by the HPU, noted that while almost 75% of parents talked to their children about drugs that only two in five parents felt that they were well enough informed about the subject.*

The research was carried out by the HPU at the end of the first year of the campaign. The findings were announced as details of year two of the "Drugs: There Are Answers" campaign was launched earlier today, Monday, 26th January, 2004. The second phase of the campaign starts this evening a four-week television burst on RTE1, Network 2, TV3, TG4, Sky One, Sky News, Sky Sports and E4.

The Drugs Awareness Campaign is an important component of the Government´s National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008 - which aims to significantly reduce the harm caused to individuals and society by the misuse of drugs, through a concerted focus on supply reduction, prevention, treatment and research. A key part of the strategy is the provision of more information and the creation of a greater awareness of the dangers of drug misuse.

The month long burst of television advertising is the first part of this year’s campaign. Other initiatives planned for the first few months of the year include the distribution of two booklets for both parents and children:

How Do I Talk to Someone About Drugs
A Parent´s Guide to Drugs
and greater use of the specially created website The brochures can be obtained by ringing the campaign information line on 1 850 719 819.

A key new initiative for 2004 is the "Drugs: There Are Answers" Roadshow which will be travelling to major population centres over the coming months. A pilot for the Roadshow was successfully carried out in Clonmel last November.

The Roadshow brings the key messages out to local areas providing people with the opportunity to meet with experts and to discuss all aspects of drugs misuse. In each area the Roadshow is being backed by local press and radio advertising. The full schedule of the Roadshow will be announced shortly.

Speaking about the campaign Micheál Martin, TD, Minister for Health and Children said that research had shown that raising the level of awareness in relation to drugs misuse could play a significant role in dealing with the problem. He said that while the current research had shown that more information is getting through to parents a great deal more still needs to be done.

"It is imperative that we understand the reasons behind the person´s drug usage and inform ourselves with the facts before we confront them. Different people use different drugs for different reasons so we just cannot put everyone who tries drugs into the one category. Our current campaign forms part of a three-year campaign, aimed at ensuring that people know that information and help is available. It is also designed to ensure people know that such information can play an important role in dealing with drugs".

The advertising campaign has been developed by Ogilvy & Mather Ireland. It is being run under the tag line "To Make Better Choices You Need the Right Information. Drugs. There Are Answers."

January 23, 2004

ERHA concerned over funding for drug services

The ERHA is concerned about the lack of extra funding for drug and alcohol misuse services. The 2004 service plan emphasised the urgency for action in regard to provided services: “The Authority recognises that alcohol services require considerable development to address the wide-ranging needs of people with alcohol problems”. The ERHA pointed out that lack of funds for drug misuse services “is likely to limit the potential to build on improvements in services in recent years”.
(Source: 'Concern over alcohol/ drug service funding ' : Irish Medical Times, p. 6, 23 Jan 2004)

Provisional Figures Show 2% Decrease in Headline Crime in 2003

Press Release:
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 2003. The statistics show a cumulative decrease of 2% for the year 2003 compared with the figures for 2002. The Minister also published the statistics for the fourth quarter of 2003 which also show a decrease of 2% compared to the corresponding period in 2002.

Press Release
"Provisional Figures Show 2% Decrease in Headline Crime in 2003"

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 2003. The statistics show a cumulative decrease of 2% for the year 2003 compared with the figures for 2002. The Minister also published the statistics for the fourth quarter of 2003 which also show a decrease of 2% compared to the corresponding period in 2002.

The Minister particularly welcomed the fact that the statistics confirm the trend of falling violent crime noted in statistics previously released in respect of the first nine months of 2003. The year on year statistics now being made available show that significant decreases were recorded in some of the most serious offence categories relating to crimes against the person:

· Murder down 12%
· Manslaughter down 14%
· Assault causing harm down 21%.
· The two rape categories down by 19% and 33% respectively
· Aggravated sexual assault down 54%

"All headline offences are serious but some are far more serious than others. So we have to be careful with the overall figure of a reduction of 2% because that figure attaches the same statistical weight to a bicycle theft as a murder", he said.


The Minister said he particularly welcomed the news that the number of violent deaths recorded in 2003 is down on the number for 2002 by a total of 7, from 59 to 52. The provisional figures for the final quarter of 2003 also record a decrease of 2% overall compared with the same period in 2002. The Minister was also pleased to note a drop of 13% or 27 fewer cases of sexual assault compared to the same quarter in 2002. Overall for the year 2003 the number of sexual assaults recorded has fallen by 7% or 112 fewer cases compared to 2002.


The Minister noted that the number of assaults causing harm has reduced for the fourth quarter in succession. The percentage reduction is 15% representing 141 fewer cases. The total reduction for the year 2003 is 21% or 1070 fewer cases.

Compared with the same quarter in 2002, thefts from the person are down 2% and there is a 10% decrease in thefts from cars. However, burglary is up 9%, although aggravated burglary is down by 5%. Robbery from the person is up by 4%. A very significant number of the robberies, thefts from the person and similar offences concern mobile phone thefts. "I believe that mobile phone theft will decline steeply with the introduction of the new technology that renders stolen mobile phones useless where the victim records the phone's IMEI number and informs his network of the theft", said the Minister.

Reductions in violence and public order offences follow the enactment during 2003 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act and the Intoxicating Liquor Act which give significant additional powers to the Gardaí to deal with public order and street crime. The Minister also congratulated the Gardaí on the success to date of Operation Encounter in which they continue to target areas of anti-social behaviour which is obviously paying dividends.

The Minister said that while the figures show that the spiral in crime has been halted, there is no room for complacency. In the reduced number of murders, for instance, are a number of vicious drug-related gang murders. The Gardai have made very significant progress in investigating those murders. The Minister stressed that it was important that the public should have objective information on the issue of crime.

The Minister welcomed the early availability of the statistics and reiterated that the figures are provisional and are thus subject to change. This data is currently the subject of an ongoing validation process which has not yet been finalised. Once this process is completed, the Garda Commissioner's Annual Report for 2003 will be published.

Appendices attached.

21 January 2004

[Headline Crime Incidents]

21 January 2004

For more information contact:
Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform
72-76, St. Stephens Green, Dublin 2, Ireland
Tel: +353 - 1 - 602 8202
Fax: +353 - 1 - 661 5461

Hepatitis C claims 50 lives among drug users each year

Research published has shown that almost 50 drug users will die each year from liver failure due to intravenous drug use. The research was carried out by the National Liver Unit, which is attached to St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin. The research shows worrying health statistics for intravenous drug users who have contracted hepatitis C from sharing needles. Of the estimated 13,460 heroin users in Ireland 41% (5,519 people) have active, live hepatitis C. After 20 years, 22% (1,214 people) will develop cirrhosis; of this 22% and estimated 50 people will die every year, 35 people will develop liver cancer and 60 people will experience the start of liver failure each year. Co-author of the study Dr Aidan Mc Cormick said: “In the context of the whole population it would be considered not a lot, but in the context of a small group of patients, such as these, it is”. The report concluded that harm reduction programmes such as methadone treatment, education and needle exchange had and impact and needed to be maintained.
(Source: 'Liver failure kills 50 drug users a year' : Irish Examiner, p. 2, 24 Jan 2004)

January 22, 2004

Drugs are a factor in an increasing number of road deaths in Northern Ireland

Detections of drivers under the influence of drugs in Northern Ireland have doubled in the past six years – with cannabis the drug most commonly found. A quarter of all road fatalities who were tested for drugs were positive. The Police Service and the Department of Environment have launched an anti-drugs-driving safety campaign. The Environment minister, Angela Smith, said ‘the police will now be actively carrying out field impairment tests on drivers whom they suspect are under the influence of drugs’. The campaign message is ‘You’ll get smashed if you drive on drugs’. According to the PSNI, 39 detections for drugs driving were made in 1997; there were 82 in 2003 – 60 per cent of which related to cannabis, but ecstasy, cocaine and heroin were also found, and people mixed drugs and alcohol – a more lethal combination. The police also stressed that a person’s ability to drive can be equally impaired by legal drugs prescribed by their doctor or bought over the counter. Drugs driving detections more than double.
(Source: 'Drugs driving detections more than double' : Irish Examiner, p. 13, 22 Jan 2004)

Tory leader predicts problems with cannabis reclassification

Tory leader, Michael Howard, promises to reverse the ‘absurd’ reform of cannabis law introduced by Blair’s government, saying: ‘On cannabis, there are good arguments on both sides. But there is no case for this massive muddle in the middle.’ The practical consequences of the reclassification decision will be alarming, he warned. The guidelines produced by the Association of Chief Police Officers say there should be ‘a presumption against arrest’ for possession of cannabis. Police officers will issue a warning and confiscate the drug. Mr Howard asks, ‘What is the warning to consist of?’ What conceivable effect is it likely to have?’ The Conservative view is that if you legalise cannabis it is bound to lead to increased use of the drug. There is a growing amount of evidence that the cannabis being used today is increasingly powerful – skink in particular – and the medical evidence suggests that cannabis can have an effect on mental health.
(Source: ''On cannabis, there are good arguments on both sides. But there is no case for this massive muddle in the middle.'' : Independent [Online], 22 Jan 2004)

January 21, 2004

Cannabis Reclassification

On 29th January 2004, cannabis will be reclassified from a Class B to a Class C drug across the UK. As a controlled drug, production, supply and possession remains illegal.

Doctors concerned that reclassification of cannabis will mislead public

Representatives of doctors’ groups in the UK say that they are ‘extremely concerned’ that the reclassification of cannabis from a class B to a Class C drug next week will mislead the public into thinking the drug is safe to use. They say that, in fact, cannabis has been linked to greater risk of heart disease, lung cancer, bronchitis and emphysema. The mental health charity, Rethink, is calling for the issue of clear health warnings about the increased risk of developing schizophrenia and other forms of psychosis from cannabis use. When it is downgraded, possession of cannabis will no longer be treated as an arrestable offence an police will not target those who use it in their own homes. Home Secretary David Blunkett has said the change in the law is necessary to enable police to spend more tacklinig class A drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine.
(Source:'Doctors’ fears at cannabis change' : BBC NEWS [Online], 21 Jan 2004)

GPs face threatening behaviour in patients

A telephone survey by the Irish Medical Times (IMT) of 121 GPs around the country found that 29.4% of family doctors had been attacked or intimidated by patients in the past 12 months. A spokesperson for the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), Dr Niall O’Cléirigh, said attacks on family doctors were a constant issue. Patients denied tranquillisers and sedatives were most likely to threaten their GP and such behaviour was ‘fairly heavily tied in to illicit drug use’, which is most prevalent in cities. Because of the huge problem of abuse of valium, sleeping tablets and benzodiazepines and their ready availability on the black market, GPs are increasingly reluctant to prescribe any of these drugs, said Dr O’Cleirigh. A 1996 study carried out in Dublin showed that more than one-in-five GPs had suffered violence at the hands of patients. Active narcotic abuse was regarded in 35% of incidents to have a relevance in causing aggression.
(Source:'Third of family GPs attacked by patients' : Irish Examiner, p. 2, 21 Jan 2004)

January 20, 2004

Largest seizure of ecstasy in Ireland

A seizure of 500,000 ecstasy tablets with an estimated street value of €5 million was made at Mountrath, Co. Laois on Friday. The seizure was made by the Garda National Drugs Unit and the Cork divisional drugs unit. A 31-year old man was arrested at the scene and detained at Mayfield station.
(Source:'Seizure of €5m worth of ecstasy is largest haul of drug in State' : Irish Times, p. 4, 19 Jan 2004)

January 19, 2004

Cocaine purity reduced by five times in Ireland

Detective Sergeant Heelan from the Drugs Squad in Limerick told a court that cocaine in Ireland is being reduced by up to five times before it is sold on the streets. The claim was made a the trial of Mr Sean Smith who was caught in possession of cocaine with a street value of over €13,000. The defendant was also caught in possession of a sub-machinegun and an explosive device. Detective Sergeant Heelan said that he also discovered a press which was used to convert cocaine from powder into solid bars called “nine bars”. He said: “I am aware that cocaine is sold in bars referred to on the street as ‘nine bars’ and on past experience I am aware that they are produced by means of placing powder into a rectangular or square object and pressing it out”. Detective Sergeant Heelan then said that cocaine that was imported into Ireland would be bulked up by as much as five times before being sold on the streets.
(Source:'Limerick court told about cocaine being bulked up' : Irish Times, p. 2, 16 Jan 2004)

Home testing kits sales soar

Almost 8,000 home drug-testing kits have been purchased in Ireland, it has been reported. The kits allow parents to test their children for cocaine, amphetamines, ecstasy, heroin and Valium through a urine sample. A spokesperson for the Kildare-based manufacturer said: “These kits will help parents find out the truth if they have suspicions that their kids are using drugs”. The kits came to prominence when they were championed by the News of the World in its “Save our kids” campaign, which was spearheaded by Philomena Lynott, mother of Thin Lizzy rock star Phil Lynott, who died as a result of his addiction to drugs.
(Source:'Rush for Irish drug test kits' : News of the World, p. 32, 18 Jan 2004)