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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.

New study shows 14,452 people using opiates in Ireland

2.00 pm, Tuesday, 6 May 2003

Over 1,000 less heroin users in Dublin

A new study on the prevalence of opiate misuse in Ireland estimated the number of people using heroin at 14,452 in 2001. The research - the first such study undertaken for the whole of the country - was commissioned by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) and was launched today (Tuesday, 6 May) by the Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, Mr Noel Ahern TD.

The research was conducted by Dr Alan Kelly, a bio-statistician based in Trinity College's Small Area Health Research Unit, with his team Ms Marlen Carvalho and Mr Conor Teljeur. It is based on statistics provided by three data sources:

  • Central Drug Treatment List;
  • National Garda Study on Drugs, Crime and Related Criminal Activity;
  • Hospital In-Patient Enquiry Database.

Speaking at the launch, Dr Kelly explained that the methodology used determines a prevalence estimate based on identifying the number of individuals in each data source and the overlap of those appearing in one, two or three data sets. The numbers are then modelled using a statistical technique to provide an estimate.

Commenting on the study's findings, Minister Ahern said that when the Dublin figures are extracted and compared with a previous study carried out in 1996, which looked at the situation in Dublin only, the number of people using opiates in the capital is estimated to have declined by approx 1,000.

"There were 12,456 opiate users (15-54 year olds) in Dublin in 2001, a marked decrease on the previously reported 1996 figure of 13,461. However, the fact that there are over 2,000 heroin users outside of Dublin means that we cannot afford any degree of complacency in tackling the problem,"

Minister Ahern noted.

"Looking closer at these studies, between 1996 and 2001 we can see a shift in the age profile of opiate users. Amongst males, the 25-34 and the 35-54 age groups now account for the majority of opiate users - compared to the 15-24 age group in 1996. The change amongst females is less pronounced although it would appear to be going in the same direction,"

the Minister added.

Dr Des Corrigan, NACD Chairperson, said that as the drug using population ages, we are seeing fewer young people using opiates, a phenomenon which will need to be analysed further.

"A comparison of the 1996 and 2001 Dublin figures shows that more 25 to 34 year olds are coming forward for treatment. This is an encouraging sign that they recognise that they can be helped. In the light of this evidence, we need to press ahead with the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy because these figures leave no room for complacency,"

Dr Corrigan said.

Minister Ahern concluded by saying that drug misuse remains one of the major social problems facing Irish society today.

"While the study's findings in relation to Dublin are encouraging, we cannot afford any degree of complacency. The Government will continue to work in partnership with communities most affected by the problem. Implementing the 100 actions in the National Drugs Strategy and initiatives such as the Local Drugs Task Forces, Regional Drugs Task Forces and the Young Peoples Facilities & Services Fund will remain a priority for Government,"

Minister Ahern said.

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