Written Answers. - Treatment for Drug Addicts.

Seamus Brennan

Question:

231 Mr. S. Brennan asked the Minister for Health the proposals, if any, he has to provide adequate treatment for drug addicts which will allow an opportunity for rehabilitation; his views on whether drug addiction is a major problem which will escalate if adequate treatment is not available in tandem with new legal proposals to deal with suppliers; the number of addicts treated in each of the years from 1990 to date in 1996; the number of addicts who were required to wait for treatment during this period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16628/96]

Limerick East): The provision of treatment and rehabilitation services for drug misusers is a matter for health boards in the first instance. Drug misuse in this country takes two forms, the misuse of so-called “soft” drugs such as cannabis and ecstasy, which is prevalent throughout the country, and the misuse of heroin, which is confined mainly to certain parts of Dublin. In the case of cannabis and ecstasy what is needed is education and prevention campaigns to discourage young people from becoming involved with such drugs and in addition, harm reduction messages for those who are already using these drugs.

The Government decided in February of this year to implement a range of measures aimed at reducing the demand for drugs. These included provision for a media campaign aimed at raising awareness about the dangers of drugs. This campaign was run initially on radio and television during July and a further burst is being run currently. A drug information line was set up in association with the campaign in July. In addition, each health board has been instructed to put in place structures which will enable it to respond to drug misuse problems which may arise.

Included in these are the establishment of regional co-ordinating committees to monitor the extent of the problem and to advise on the development of education and prevention measures.

The problem of heroin misuse in certain parts of Dublin requires a different response. There are no hard data available on the numbers involved, but the Health Research Board has provided information on persons treated for drug misuse in the Dublin area as follows:

Year

Number treated

1990

1,752

1991

2,006

1992

2,240

1993

2,573

1994

2,702

The Government decision in February 1996, referred to above, made provision for the implementation by the Eastern Health Board of a range of measures in response to the growing threat posed by heroin misuse. These are as follows: locally based drug treatment facilities in Dublin will be extended, in consultation with local communities; general practitioners will play a wider role in the ongoing maintenance on methadone of persons who have been stabilised in the treatment centres; rehabilitation and support services will be further developed; special attention will be given to the problems of persons who smoke heroin; a contact service, which will provide information, advice and assistance on drugs to the public, will be established by each health board; there will be external evaluation of the adequacy and effectiveness of services in the Eastern Health Board area; the nuisance which drug misusers can cause in the vicinity of treatment centres and other locations will be alleviated by arrangements to be agreed between the Eastern Health Board and the Garda and the co-ordination of detoxification facilities will be improved.
It is estimated that there are approximately 500 persons awaiting treatment for drug misuse in the Dublin area. The Eastern Health Board is confident that the implementation of the measures outlined above should result in the waiting list being cleared.
I am confident that the expansion of services which is under way in health boards, and particularly in the Eastern Health Board, together with the Department of Justice measures announced by my colleague the Minister for Justice, will make a significant contribution to addressing the drugs problem.