An initiative is being set up in Cork and Kerry to combat what is by far the biggest drug abused – alcohol.
Around 400 healthcare workers have just been trained to spot alcohol abuse and offer ‘coalface’ help to alcoholics.
HSE officials in the region have reported that alcohol is by far the number one abused drug, well ahead of cannabis, benzodiazepines such as Valium and Xanax, and heroin.
Joe Kirby, rehabilitation co-ordinator for the Cork Local Drug and Alcohol Task Force, said his organisation helped more that 2000 addicted people last year and around two-thirds were alcohol-dependant.
He said heroin addicts often used other drugs as well and when they couldn’t get heroin frequently abused a combination of alcohol and benzodiazepines.
The 400 trained for the anti-alcohol abuse project include mental health nurses, social workers, probation officers and midwives. A further 100 will be trained shortly.
Mr Kirby said his organisation was also setting up a benzodiazepines taskforce which will be launched in August. It will work with GPs to ween people off prescription drugs within their own communities.
The Cork Local Drug and Alcohol Task Force is also teaming up with homeless services in the city an county to provide a “higher and more continuous” level of care for homeless people, many of whom are chronic alcohol abusers.
This is the first teaming-up of its type in the country and will be officially launched in September.
Mr Kirby told a meeting attended by health professionals, care workers and gardaí in County Hall yesterday that several other measures had to be taken to lower the very high levels of drinking in this country.
He said the government had to introduce minimum pricing, ensure the widespread availibility of alcohol was reduced and curtail alcohol-producing companies marketing their products.
Mr Kirby made his comments as the task force launched its strategic plan for 2015-2017.
David Lane, area operation manager for the HSE drug and alcohol services, said more investment would be needed to tackle alcohol abuse, which he described “as the elephant in the room” of drug addiction.
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