Dáil Éireann - Volume 459 - 05 December, 1995
Written Answers. - Drug Abuse.
Miss Quill Miss Quill
33. Miss Quill asked the Minister for Health if he intends to appoint an oncologist for the Cork region in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18165/95]
Mr. M. McDowell Mr. M. McDowell
 34. Mr. M. McDowell asked the Minister for Health if he agrees with the view of the Medical Director of Hume Street Hospital, Dublin 2, that parts of the hospital are so dilapidated and rundown that it resembles Dickensian conditions; the plans, if any, he has for the continued provision of dermatology services at this hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18170/95]
Miss Harney Miss Harney
35. Miss Harney asked the Minister for Health the plans, if any, he has to fund designated general practitioner posts in each health board area which would be skilled in the provision of specialised family planning services, such as IUD fittings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18176/95]
Mr. E. Byrne Mr. E. Byrne
36. Mr. E. Byrne asked the Minister for Health the total number of drug treatment places available in the State; the number of persons awaiting treatment for all forms of drug abuse in the most recent year for which figures are available; the proposals, if any, he has to increase the number of drug treatment places available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18157/95]
Mr. Callely Mr. Callely
48. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Health if he has satisfied himself with the drug treatment services available; if he has further satisfied himself that prevention and intervention has been successful; the other measures, if any, that have been considered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18117/95]
Mr. Callely Mr. Callely
93. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Health the number of people misusing drugs; the assessments, if any, that have been carried out to address the escalation of drug abuse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18127/95]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan, Limerick East) Michael Noonan
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan, Limerick East): I propose to deal with Questions 33, 34, 35, 36, 48 and 93 together.
The provision of treatment services for drug misusers is a matter for health  boards in the first instance. Treatment services vary from one health board to the next, depending on the demand for these services. The services include detoxification, methadone maintenance, needle exchange and counselling and advice, depending on the clinical judgment of the health professionals who assess each case presenting for treatment. As treatment is provided in a number of facilities, including psychiatric and general hospitals and through general practitioners, it is not possible to quantify the exact number of treatment places available. Approximately 1,200 people are on methadone maintenance programmes with the Eastern Health Board treatment centres, the Drug Treatment Centre and general practitioners. In addition, a number of drug misusers are in receipt of treatment, advice and counselling at other facilities provided by both statutory and voluntary agencies, which are funded through health boards. The most recent report from the Health Research Board indicates that a total of 2,702 individuals in the greater Dublin area received treatment for drug misuse during 1994.
In the Dublin area there are waiting lists for the treatment of heroin abusers at all drug treatment centres. The most recent report from the Eastern Health Board indicates that approximately 800 people are awaiting treatment. The board, in consultation with my Department is addressing this issue as a matter of urgency. A major component of the plan to eliminate these waiting lists is the establishment of community drug centres in local areas where the need for these centres has been identified. The most effective way to treat drug misusers is in their own locality where possible. I am aware of opposition from local communities to the establishment of these centres. I have asked the Eastern Health Board to approach the establishment of these centres with the utmost sensitivity and with the fullest consultation with the local community and I would appeal to such communities  to help facilitate the provision of treatment facilities to drug misusers in their own areas.
In the fight against drugs the most effective weapon which we have is education and prevention. In drug misuse prevention programmes, such as “On My Own Two Feet”, which was made available to second level schools in 1994, young people are given information on all drugs, but they are also trained to develop their assertiveness and decision making skills so that they can resist drug offer situations. The evaluation of this programme has proven it to be effective in changing young people's attitudes to drug misuse. It is too early however, to say how effective the programme is at influencing behaviour.
Media campaigns can also be effective at getting a hard hitting message across to the public. For this reason my Department's Health Promotion Unit is working on possible themes for a major awareness campaign, which will be run early next year. Because the nature and cause of drug misuse are complex, interventions, whether they involve education and training, or clinical treatment, can be limited in their effectiveness, without a concerted effort by all agencies, both statutory and voluntary, in addressing the problem. A major stumbling block to success in the Dublin area for example is the strong links between drug misuse and factors such as unemployment and social deprivation.
For these reasons my Department is co-ordinating the response to drug misuse and demand reduction through the re-established National Co-ordinating Committee on Drug Abuse. This Committee is comprised of representatives from a number of Government Departments which have a role to play in the prevention of drug misuse. The Committee, will in turn establish two further sub-committees, one on demand reduction and one on supply reduction, to focus on these specific areas.
Dáil Éireann 459 Written Answers. Drug Abuse.