Concerns over rehab as opiate use soars

PRESSURE mounted on the Government last night to roll out more rehabilitation facilities for heroin users as research showed the number of opiate takers outside Dublin had soared by 165% in the last five years.

But as the amount of opiate drug takers increased outside the capital, the numbers of young heroin users in Dublin are declining.

The National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) study stresses the need for treatment centres in the rest of Ireland to meet the growing numbers of heroin addicts.

The committee’s chairperson Dr Des Corrigan said: “There is now a need for treatment centres in towns around the country, in places like Tralee, Cork, Waterford and Enniscorthy.”

Monitoring drug treatment figures, data from gardaí and numbers in hospital care, the research team looked at the change in opiate use between 2001 and 2006.

During the five years there was an overall 42% increase in the prevalence of heroin users from 14,681 in 2001 to 20,790 in 2006.

But in areas outside Dublin, a more notable surge in opiate users was evident with numbers rising from 2,225 to 5,886 in 2006.

A total 28% of users tracked by the report lived outside the capital.

But in Dublin itself, the drop in the 15- to 24-year-olds taking heroin was noteworthy, falling from 2,735 over the five years to 1,892 users.

Dr Corrigan added: “That suggests that there are a much smaller number of people being recruited into heroin use.”

“We have an aging population of heroin users who in addition to the normal health issues of any aging group, these are going to be made worse by the fact that they are using heroin and probably using a range of other drugs as well.”

The study also noted that the number of male opiate users actually in treatment was much lower outside the capital (31% for young males) while it was 55% for Dublin.

Drugs Minister John Curran questioned the reliability of the research’s findings on the prevalence of opiate use because of a “diminishing overlap” in figures collected from treatment, gardaí and hospitals. But he noted the average age of those entering treatment had increased from 28 to 33 during the five-year period.

Dr Corrigan though called on the minister and the Government to look beyond the first step of treatment for heroin addicts and now examine the huge need for rehabilitation and therapy facilities nationwide.


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