The objectives of the health response to the drug problem are based on two key elements, reducing the number of people turning to drug misuse in the first instance through information, education and prevention programmes and providing a range of treatment options for those addicted to drugs, the ultimate objective of which is a return to a drug free lifestyle.
In this regard my Department is responsible for the delivery of drug awareness messages to the public in general and to specific target groups and for the development, in conjunction with the health boards and the Department of Education and Science, of education and prevention programmes for schools. It is also responsible for developing and implementing policy for the provision of drug treatment services. These services are delivered by the ten health boards and include detoxification, maintenance programmes, counselling and rehabilitation.
Another dimension to my Department's role is ensuring that proper controls are in place in relation to possession, import and control of all controlled drugs in accordance with the Misuse of Drugs Acts, 1977 and 1984. A principal officer from my Department chairs the national drug strategy team which oversees the work of the local drug task forces.
Given the nature of drug abuse it is difficult to establish the extent of the problem. Various estimates have been made which range from 7,500 to 13,500 heroin users in the greater Dublin area. The National Advisory Committee on Drugs, which is under the aegis of the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation, will, as part of its remit, examine trends in drug use.