Dáil Éireann - Volume 572 - 21 October, 2003

Written Answers. - National Drugs Strategy.

  154. Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the total estimated number of heroin abusers in Dublin and the rest of the country for each of the past five years; the steps being taken to counter such extensive heroin use, especially in the context of the implementation of the national drugs strat[1522] egy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24057/03]

  Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Mr. N. Ahern): The national advisory committee on drugs, for which my Department has responsibility, published a study on the prevalence of opiate misuse in Ireland last May which estimated that there are 14,452 opiate users in Ireland. This estimate was based on statistics provided by three data sources for 2001: the central drug treatment list, Garda data and hospital in-patient data. This was the first formal estimate of the number of opiate users undertaken since 1996. However, it should be noted that the 1996 study which arrived at an estimate of 13,461 estimated prevalence for Dublin only.

  The latest study estimates that there are 12,456 opiate users in Dublin and a further 2,225 users outside the capital. The Deputy should note that the figures for Dublin and outside Dublin do not add up to the national total as all three figures are the result of separate statistical calculations and are performed independently of each other. The drop in prevalence figures in Dublin since 1996 is encouraging. Equally encouraging is the finding that the number of users in the 15-24 age bracket has reduced substantially which may point to a lower rate of initiation into heroin misuse. Since 1996 the availability of treatment for opiate dependence has increased significantly and this may be a factor in explaining the latest estimates. For example, there were 1,350 places available on the central methadone treatment list at the start of 1996, whereas currently there are approximately 6,800.

  Although many of the study's findings are encouraging, we cannot afford any degree of complacency. The Government remains committed to working in partnership with the communities most affected by drug misuse and the continued implementation of the 100 actions set out in the national drugs strategy remains a priority. I do not feel that any change in direction is warranted as a result of this report. The strategy provides for an independent evaluation of the effectiveness of the overall framework by the end of 2004. This will examine the progress being made in achieving the overall key goals set out in the strategy and will enable priorities for further action to be identified and a refocusing of the strategy if necessary.

  Question No. 155 answered with Question No. 105.

  Question No. 156 answered with Question No. 118.

  Question No. 157 answered with Question No. 134.

[1523]