I thank the members of the committee for this opportunity to present the findings of the report we have carried out in Monaghan. I would also like to thank my colleague, Mr. Tim Murphy, for coming along today. As the Chairman stated, Teach na Daoine Family Resource Centre is one the national programme of family resource centres which is currently funded by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. We had this report in mind as during recent years we were contacted by numerous people seeking support who were facing drug addiction issues and a range of difficulties accompanying those, both psychiatric and other illnesses. We were not sure what was happening within the community in the early days. Unfortunately, today we are mindful that in a very small community of only 170 houses we have lost two of our young people, young P.J. McQuaid and Michael Power, in a 12-month period as a direct result of the synthetic cannabinoids. We are very mindful of their families in Monaghan town.
After those events, a number of public meetings were held at which a huge outcry and frustration was voiced in the community of Monaghan town about how we would tackle this issue and try to solve the problem. As a result of that, the Teach na Daoine Family Resource Centre decided to embark upon a short piece of research, the outcome of which is this report, to gather evidence on the extent of the problem not only within the area of Teach na Daoine but the wider area of Monaghan. We were getting anecdotal evidence that this was the number one drug of choice within the county of Monaghan, that it was becoming a serious problem and more people were surfacing with a range of needs. Thankfully, we got some support from Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, and the HSE and we also got expertise from Cavan Monaghan Drug Awareness Project and we put together this report. Unfortunately, it makes very stark reading. This is a very difficult problem. It is compounded by a number of issues that are affecting our community. They range from the services that users and their families will need and difficulties around the legislation on this area. We are facing a difficult problem. It seems to be escalating. Those are the difficulties we face.
I am not going to read the brief that has been provided to members but the report touches on the key issues, namely, awareness of harm and consumption of these products. They are know locally as "herbal", which is a terrible name because any herbal products carry the connotation that they must be good for us but, unfortunately, that is very much not the case with these products. They have many negative consequences for users and also for the community because they cannot understand the uncertainty surrounding the legality or illegality of these products.
We want to give the members as much information as possible. We have brought along information cards that have been given to families and I will circulate them to members. Probably the most important item we have is the wrappers these drugs come in and I would also like to circulate those to the members. They will note that they way they are packaged and marketed shows that they are clearly targeted at the very young market. Our survey has highlighted that children as young as 13 years of age are using these products and the oldest user, of whom we are aware, is in their early 40s. Unfortunately, these products are freely available.
With regard to the marketing of these products, they are called "Joker", "Juicy Fruit", "Clockwork Orange Loaded" and we found a new packet on the market only yesterday that is called "Volume 2". From a chemical composition, we suggest they contain all the same things, namely, synthetic cannabinoids. The newest version we found on the street yesterday has the exact same kind of compound. It is causing a wide range of difficulties for children and their families. The scale of the problem is escalating as we find that a range of people are accessing our family resource centre every day seeking support.
From the service point of view, the growth of this problem has compounded matters as it is impacting on a number of areas. People are behaving in an extremely psychotic way and they may not have a mental health diagnosis. It is quite difficult from a service point of view to work out the treatment to provide. One of the recommendations in our report is to create a separate path where a detoxification unit could be accessed by high-end users of these products. Unfortunately, in Monaghan town and county, these products are the number one drug of choice. Their availability is quite unbelievable. The report refers to the issue of drug tourism. One can go across the Border to the North and buy these products in a joke shop. They are sold as incense products. If one has an address in the North, one can order these products in large quantities, 100 bags at a time, on the Internet and bring them across the Border where their legal status is somewhat grey. The issue is further compounded with Monaghan's proximity to the Border and these products being openly available in the North.
Our community has faced a number of difficulties. They are outlined in the report, which is an attempt to seek the support that is required. There are key recommendations in the report. It is a short piece of evidence. We are very thankful that nine users were very honest and truthful in telling their particular stories. It seems clear that high-end users are afraid of coming off these products because one of the deaths was related to a young person struggling to come off them. One seems to go to a very dark place in trying to do that and, unfortunately for that young fellow, it ended in suicide. Many people who are on these products and wish to come off them are terrified about trying to do that on their own. The expert advice suggests that one should not do this on one's own as it is very dangerous to do so. That is a very small snapshot of where our community is at in dealing with this issue. We will field any questions members may have.