Cities outside Dublin are experiencing “high” usage rates of heroin and other opiates, according to an official prevalence study.
The age profile in regions outside Dublin is also much younger, with one in six users in the South and South East aged 15-24, compared to less than 4% in Dublin.
Research shows that the national estimate of opiate users rose by 9% between 2011 and 2014, from almost 17,400 to nearly 19,000 people.
A study commissioned by the State’s drug research body found that Ballymun in north Dublin had by far the highest rate of problematic opiate users — six times the national average — and the North-West the lowest.
The research, conducted for the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol, reports a 40% increase (to more than 11,200) in users aged 35-64.
The report estimates there were 18,988 opiate (mainly heroin) users in 2014 (in a range of 18,720–21,454), based on four different datasets.
The number of users corresponded to 6.18 per thousand of the population aged between 15 and 64.
The national estimate rose significantly from 17,387 in 2011 to 18,696 in 2013, with a slight increase to 18,988 in 2014.
Some 13,458 opiate users in 2014 were in Dublin, giving the county a rate of 15.15 per thousand. The rest of the State had an estimated 5,530 users and a prevalence of 2.53 per thousand.
New sources of data provided researchers with detailed local information.
Based on the fives cities, Dublin city had a rate of 22.7 per thousand, followed by Limerick city (8.8), Waterford city (6.7), and Cork city (5.7). Galway city was by far the lowest (1.9).
There were also high rates in Carlow (7), Wicklow (5.6), Westmeath (5.5), and Offaly and Laois (both 5).
The lowest rates were in Sligo (0.4), Monaghan (0.5), Donegal and Mayo (0.6) and Leitrim (0.7).
“While the overall prevalence is stabilising, the spread of opiate use across the country is apparent,” said Catherine Comiskey, chair of the committee.
“As a result of these new estimates, we can see that although the highest prevalence rates are still recorded in Co Dublin, other cities across the State are also experiencing high estimates of problem opiate use.”
Figures based on local or regional drug and alcohol task forces show that Ballymun (63 per thousand) topped the table, followed by Ballyfermot (37.9), the North Inner City (37.7) and the Canal Communities (35.4).
The figures show that while the total number of young people (aged 15-24) has dropped over the three years, they account for a much higher proportion of users outside Dublin.
While young people accounted for just 3%-4% of users in the three regions in Dublin, they comprised 17% of all users in Cork and Kerry, 16% in Carlow, Kilkenny, South Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford, almost 14% in Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary, 11% in Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, and Westmeath. The report points, overall, to an aging profile, with more than six out of 10 users in Dublin aged 35-64.
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