SEVERE staff cutbacks at the state’s drugs research body have had a “very serious and damaging effect”, the Government’s top drug adviser has said.
The National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) – the official “research arm of the National Drugs Strategy” – has had no researchers for a year-and-a-half.
This has prevented the body from conducting research itself – including an urgent study on head shops – and has had to go through the costly and lengthy process of commissioning work.
The strength of NACD has fallen from eight full-time workers, including two researchers, to two full-time and one part-time staff.
Its former director, Máiréad Lyons, left in January 2009 and was later replaced by an interim director, on secondment from the civil service.
In the NACD 2009 annual report, chairman, Dr Des Corrigan said 2009 had been “very challenging” as it has had to absorb the loss of research officer Dr Gemma Cox and a researcher, Dr Teresa Whittaker.
Dr Corrigan said both researchers had made an “enormous contribution” to the NACD’s work and that it was “a matter of regret” their contracts were not renewed.
“The loss of the skills and experience of two outstanding researchers had a very serious and damaging effect on the work of the NACD which was further aggravated by a significant budget cut,” he said. The budget was cut by 23% in 2009.
In addition, Dr Corrigan said the workload under the new National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016 had increased “significantly”.
He said the NACD will need “the requisite in-house technical and research capability and financial support” to conduct its work.
A spokeswoman for Drugs Minister Pat Carey said the NACD officially had one researcher and that the second was on contract.
She said interviews for the research position were expected at the end of the month and that the person would hopefully be in place by September.
She said Minister Carey was very supportive of the NACD and would “endeavour to preserve its funding for 2011”.
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