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Two thirds of treatment centre’s clients stay drug-free

President Michael D Higgins visits Coolmine Therapeutic Community on its 40th anniversary.

Drug addicts seeking help at one treatment centre are mostly in their 30s and more than half are from outside the capital, it was revealed at a celebration to mark 40 years of helping people rebuild their lives after drug addiction.

Coolmine Therapeutic Community in Blanchardstown, Co Dublin, was the country’s first specialist drug treatment centre when it opened in 1973. It currently provides a range of addiction treatment services to about 1,000 people each year.

Research has shown that 64% of Coolmine’s patients stay drug-free after therapy at the centre, compared to the national average of 29%.

More than half of all addicts who undergo residential treatment require therapy in excess of six months.

Pauline McKeown, Coolmine’s CEO, said demands on the centre’s services continue to increase, while the age and geographic profile of clients had also changed — a majority of new admissions are now older than before and are mostly in their early 30s. Similarly, more than half of all new clients come from outside of Dublin.

Ms McKeown said another recent trend was the move from the use of single opiates to polydrug use, with a growth in the numbers taking cocaine, crack, and benzodiazepine.

"As a society, we cannot leave these people who are marginalised and struggling with addiction," said Ms McKeown. "With help and support, clients can and do manage their addiction and return to contributing to their families and to society."

An event to mark Coolmine’s special anniversary was held at the centre in Blanchardstown and was attended by President Michael D Higgins. He told a large audience that people who found themselves in the circle of drug addiction often got very little sympathy from wider society.

Mr Higgins said the values of Coolmine offered such people dignity, respect, honesty, and compassion in a safe and secure setting.

He claimed the families of clients were also grateful for the work of Coolmine as it was commonly accepted that eight people were affected for each individual with a drug addiction.

"Reducing inequality is essential to address the seed bed from which drug addicts come," he said.

Among those whom Mr Higgins met at Coolmine was Sedonia McAllister, 25, a mother-of-two originally from Edinburgh.

Sedonia, who used cocaine and ecstasy from her early teens, came to Ireland when two months pregnant with her second child to escape a violent relationship. While her drug abuse initially worsened after she ended up living on the streets and in hostels in Dublin, she was eventually recommended to Coolmine’s residential facility for mothers and babies, three weeks after her second child was born last year.

Sedonia, who has now been drug- free for almost eight months, said the fear of having to give up her second child for adoption because of her drug use was the incentive to overcome her addiction.

"I’m calm and at peace with myself and my surroundings knowing I’m going to be the mother that I never had before," she said.

Now involved in a step-down programme, she hopes to soon get her own home and pursue a career in media — an aim helped by securing an exclusive interview with the President yesterday.

A special book including writings from former addicts entitled 40 years helping those with addiction to find their way home, was also launched to mark the occasion.