People using street tablets 'don't know what they are getting'

People using 'street tablets' are the focus of a new harm reduction campaign in Dublin's north inner city.

Chief executive of the Ana Liffey Drug Project, Tony Duffin, said the use of drugs sold on the streets has been a problem for some years.

“When you see an empty tablet blister packet blowing around on the street, someone has not taken the last one and thrown it away – they've taken all of them,” said Tony Duffin.

The campaign, launched yesterday by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Nial Ring, is supported by the North Inner City Drug and Alcohol Task force.

The task force collects data on drug trends from local projects on a regular basis throughout the year and the use of street tablets has been identified as a key trend.

“We are talking about prescribed drugs that have been diverted onto the black market so a person has got them from a doctor and is now selling them on the streets,” said Mr Duffin.

Then you have fake tablets – tablets that are made in China or India, for example, and then imported and sold on the streets and there are the home-pressed tablets as well. But, ultimately, people are buying these tablets on the street; they don't know what they are getting.

Mr Duffin said the people who are buying the street drugs already have addiction issues and are trying to manage it.

Drugs commonly misused on the streets include Benzodiazepine (Benzos), z-drugs such as zolpidem, zopiclone and zaleplon and pregabalin.

Benzodiazepine. File image

“I know it will be shocking to think that some people in Dublin's North Inner City are taking whole trays of tablets in one go,” said Mr Duffin.

“When someone says to one of my team that they've taken 'benzos' they often mean they've taken a blister pack, referred to on the street as a 'tray', or maybe 10 tablets at once. This has implications for their health and their behaviour, we must do more to respond to this and it must be pragmatic and compassionate. At this stage of drug use, people aren't choosing to use like this – they need to in order to manage their addiction.”

Mr Duffin said the resources developed as part of the campaign include a fact sheet and poster with information on street tablets and harm reduction for people using them.

Ana Liffey, a national addiction service working to reduce harm by drug use in Ireland, has a drop-in service in Dublin and out-reach teams on the streets.

The fact sheet includes advice on crushing and snorting tablets in a bid to reduce the risks of contracting HIV and hepatitis C.

By giving advice they are not encouraging the practice – that argument was won a long time ago, said Mr Duffin.

“People are already taking the drugs. This is a way of keeping people safe until they are ready to change.”

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