The European drug report presents an overview of the drug situation in Europe, covering drug supply, use and public health problems, as well as drug policy and responses. The drug problem across Europe is of great concern, with the growing problem of cocaine use a particular worry.
The national drugs strategy, Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery, is our whole-of-Government, multi-annual response to drug and alcohol use. It commits to dealing with substance use as a public health issue. A specific objective of the strategy is to prevent the use of drugs and alcohol at a young age. Evidence suggests that comprehensive school-based programmes that combine social and personal development and provide information about substance use are more likely to be effective. This is a key component of the new Department of Education and Skills well-being policy statement and framework for practice, which is being implemented on an ongoing basis. In addition, the Department of Education and Skills and the HSE are in the final stages of developing an educational prevention programme for schools on drugs and alcohol for the junior cycle and the senior cycle called Know the Score. Again, this will be available on an ongoing basis.
Developing harm reduction interventions for at-risk groups is another objective of the national drugs strategy. The HSE has developed a number of early harm reduction responses for people attending festivals, students and people who use cocaine. These campaigns offer practical harm reduction information, as well as advice on how to reduce the risks of drug use.
My priority is to promote healthier lifestyles within society. Through the twin-track approach of Healthy Ireland and the national drugs strategy, I believe we can offer our young people positive alternatives to drugs and alcohol.