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National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol

The NACDA was established in response to the drug problem to assist in our continued need to improve our knowledge and understanding of problem drug use.

The goal of the NACDA is to advise the Government on problem drug use in Ireland in relation to prevalence, prevention consequences and treatment based on our analysis and interpretation of research findings.

Study highlights need for new indicators to identify emerging drug problems in communities earlier

ISSUE DATE: 10.30am, Thursday, 23rd November, 2006

MEDIA CONTACT: Gerald Nash (087 2716816) / Pat Montague (087 2549123) Montague Communications, tel. 01 830 3116

A new study launched today (Thursday, 23rd November) has highlighted the need for the development of a new set of indicators to identify emerging drug problems in communities earlier which would enable Government and other agencies to react quickly to changing trends. A Community Drugs Study: Developing Community Indicators for Problem Drug Use was commissioned by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) and the research team was led by Dr Mary Ellen McCann and Dr Hilda Loughran. The study sets out to examine how the experiences of three separate communities which have experienced problem drug use - Ballymun, Bray and Crumlin - have changed since 1996.

Speaking at the launch of the Community Drugs Study in Buswell’s Hotel, Noel Ahern, T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy said,

“This report provides evidence of the impact and effectiveness of Government policy on drugs since 1996.  Many of the funded initiatives are working which is demonstrated by marked improvements in early school leaving, unemployment and service provision.  There has also been a reduction in some types of crime.  I am aware of the concerns raised by communities about the changing patterns of drug misuse and its consequences for local communities and I can assure them that these are being addressed through the increased resources provided by Government.”

Dr Des Corrigan, Chairperson of the NACD pointed out that some of the study findings are disappointing. He said,

“While experience of crime had reduced, local crime rates have started to grow again. Polydrug use, which means the use of more than one drug such as alcohol for example with other substances like cannabis or cocaine, is a cause for concern for all of the communities involved in this Study.  The study findings demonstrate the need for closer working between National Alcohol and Drugs Strategies as under-age drinking was a cause of serious disturbance in these communities.”

The key findings of the Community Drugs Study are:

  • All three communities showed improvements in the number of children under 15 years-of-age staying in school and an increase in those completing the Leaving Certificate.
  • Employment opportunities have increased over the 10 years and this has had an impact on the local economy and community optimism. Fewer numbers are unemployed.
  • Increased provision of drug treatment and ancillary support services which has improved access to drug treatment locally.
  • Alcohol misuse is having a major effect on communities giving weight to the argument for linking alcohol and drugs strategies.
  • Poly drug use is undermining the successes of community responses providing a clear case for continued investment in drug free alternatives and rehabilitation options.
  • Local reports of drug-related deaths are not reflected in official statistics.
  • Diminishing levels of community participation are likely to have a negative impact on local initiatives and the willingness to find solutions from within communities.
  • There is a re-emergence of fear and a risk of communities feeling overwhelmed by their current drugs experience.
  • The study reinforces the need to continue to work with local communities in partnership to achieve long term, sustainable improvements.


The NACD recommends as a first step, the development of Community Drugs Indicators which will identify drugs problems in communities thus facilitating the earlier allocation of resources for national and local service planning and delivery. 

Mairéad Lyons Director NACD said,

“The development of such indicators is critical if we are to identify communities earlier with an emerging or changing drug problem.  This will enable Government, agencies and services to respond to changing trends much more quickly. The way in which data on drug related issues are generally gathered makes it extremely difficult to know exactly what is happening at a local level within a community. Current indicators of drug problems are generally collected at national or regional level and few at local level. This Study recommends the introduction of a new dataset of Community Drugs Indicators which would require agencies to collect and store data at Electoral Division (ED) level so that the relevant information can be broken down by local area.” 

In addition to the existing data from treatment and social exclusion sources the NACD recommends that the community drugs indicator should comprise the following information available by ED:

A Community Drugs Study: Developing Community Indicators for Problem Drug Use
Ballymun Community Case Study: Experiences and Perceptions of Problem Drug Use
Bray Community Case Study: Experiences and Perceptions of Problem Drug Use
Crumlin Community Case Study: Experiences and Perceptions of Problem Drug Use

  • Crime (including alcohol related public order offences) and victimisation reports
  • School absenteeism and early school leaving trends
  • Extent of family engagement with or disengagement from the community
  • Levels of volunteerism and community participation, use of local amenities

The report has been presented recently to the inter-departmental group on drugs chaired by the Minister of State Noel Ahern, T.D. and a meeting of key stakeholders has recently taken place to look at implementing the Community Drugs Indicators.

ENDS

Notes to the Editor

About the NACD

The NACD was established in July 2000 to advise the Government in relation to the prevalence, prevention, treatment / rehabilitation and consequences of problem drug use in Ireland, based on the analysis of research findings and information available to it. The NACD is overseeing the delivery of a work programme on the extent, nature, causes and effects of drug use in Ireland.  The NACD comprises representatives nominated from relevant agencies and sectors, both statutory and non-statutory. The NACD reports to the Minister of State responsible for the National Drugs Strategy.   The NACD has published several reports which are available on the website. 

Research Methodology

Qualitative participatory research was employed in three communities across Dublin: Ballymun, Bray, Crumlin. Local contacts were recruited and trained as community researchers because they lived in and/or worked in the three communities in the research.  A richness was brought to the research through the mixed involvement of the researchers, which included personal experience of drugs problems. To ensure the validity and rigor of the research, core data triangulation methods included focus groups; key participants; desk research; grey literature; review meetings; oral diaries and one-to-one in –depth interviews. Data were analysed qualitatively with the assistance of the community researchers.

Study Participants were categorised into four groups: Level 1 (direct experience of drug use issues); Level 2 (indirect involvement with the issue); Level 3 (involvement in community activities but not drugs issues); and Level 4 (voices not normally heard i.e neither active in community activities nor on drugs issues).  One-to-one interviews were carried out with 20 participants comprising members of the Bray (n=5), Crumlin (n=7) and Ballymun (n=8) communities.  Nine focus groups were undertaken with a total of 28 members of the Ballymun community, 28 members of Bray community, and 20 members of Crumlin community.  Participants were recruited to participate in the study by the community researchers - thus giving their experiences a voice in the project.

Case Studies

Such was the vase amount of data gathered and analysed, a case-study has been published on each of the participating communities in which more detail of their experiences over the last 10 years is documented.

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