Dáil Éireann - Volume 494 - 08 October, 1998
Written Answers. - Drug Treatment Services.
Mr. Durkan Mr. Durkan
88. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent to which drug treatment and prevention facilities and measures are currently available; the total number of identified drug abusers; whether this number has increased or decreased in the past 12 months; the total number of treatment places currently available; the measures, if any, he proposes to augment facilities in this regard; if cognisance has been taken of these requirements and facilities in various overseas jurisdictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15433/98]
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen) Brian Cowen
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen): All health boards provide drug prevention and treatment facilities, and, in addition grant aid organisations which provide such services to drug misusers. The objectives of the health boards' 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 must be a return to a drug free lifestyle.
There is no exact figure for the number of drug abusers. However, data from the Health Research Board's annual reports on treated drug misuse in Ireland gives a good indication of the extent of the problem. The most recent figures available are for the years 1995 and 1996, which are as follows:
 In addition to the above figures there would be a number of people abusing drugs who have never come into contact with treatment service providers.
Services are generally provided to drug misusers on an out-patient basis. The Eastern Health Board area, where the vast majority of opiate misusers reside has eight drug treatment centres and 21 satellite clinics. In addition, over 100 general practitioners and 100 pharmacists are involved in providing methadone treatment to opiate misusers in their own local area. There is a continuous demand for additional treatment facilities in the board and it continues to expand its services to meet this demand. The number of treatment places in 1997 increased from 1,861 to 2,776, that is 915 new treatment places were provided in that period. As services develop in local areas, however, more people come forward to access these services, so it is impossible to say when waiting lists can actually be eliminated. However, the board will continue to expand its services with the objective of providing prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and aftercare services to everyone who needs such services. In other health boards drug misuse treatment is mainly provided by general practitioners or through hospital services. The emphasis is on providing treatment in the person's own local area where support can be given by local counselling and community based agencies to the drug misuser and family members. I am aware that some drug misusers are treated in facilities abroad. However, the contribution to be made by such facilities to dealing with the overall problem would not be significant.
With regard to drug prevention, the health promotion unit in my Department implements a wide range of initiatives aimed at creating a greater awareness of the problems of drug misuse and preventing young people from turning to drug misuse in the first instance. It has worked closely with the Department of Education and Science on the development and dissemination of a substance abuse prevention programme in schools. It has also produced a mass media campaign, with the message “drugs destroy lives, not just of users but people close to them too”, a drug education video, a youth support work-pack, a community-based drug awareness programme, a leadership training programme for primary prevention of drug misuse, and a range of resource materials for parents, teachers, young people and those who work in the field of drug abuse prevention. Regional health boards are also engaged in a wide variety of health promotion activities.
In January this year the Taoiseach announced that the Government had decided on a programme for young people at risk. A total sum of £30 million is being provided over the next three years to support the development of projects in disadvantaged areas and £20 million of this sum will be targeted at the areas worst affected by the heroin problem.
Dáil Éireann 494 Written Answers. Drug Treatment Services.