Street dealing in prescription drugs is far outstripping the illegal trading of cocaine and heroin on city streets.
Among the 1,500 arrests in Dublin between September and December, only 60 related to the dealing of hard drugs, figures released yesterday show.
The majority of seizures were for mainly GP-prescribed drugs, demonstrating a new drugs boom.
Figures supplied to the Irish Examiner showed that customs officials seized 314,566 prescription tablets in the first four months of this year.
The 2,337 seizures up to the end of April, equated to a total volume of 20.153kg and worth a combined total of €624,190.
The Government and gardaí have admitted that street dealing in prescription drugs is emerging as a major challenge for authorities.
In cases where people are in possession of prescription drugs, gardaí find it harder to prove dealing was taking place and thereby more difficult to bring prosecutions.
Earlier this week, Roisin Shortall, junior minister with responsibility for the national drugs strategy, said the Government would introduce new laws that would allow the for the prosecution of those dealing in prescription drugs.
Yesterday, she reiterated the call, claiming new measures were needed to stop the oversupply of those drugs to people who then sold them on, and also for drugs being imported illegally into the country.
A Luas stop on Abbey St, in the heart of Dublin, has already been identified by Lord Mayor of Dublin, Cllr Andrew Montague, as being one of the main city centre sites for the dealing of prescription drugs, often benzodiazepines.
“There are a number of different facets to the prescription drugs problem,” said Ms Shortall.
“One is over-prescribing and, within the HSE, they are currently examining the prescribing patterns of GPs.
“We need to restrict the quantity of prescription drugs that people can have.
“The other is in relation to the importation of these drugs and the law needs to be strengthened in that regard.”
She also restated her intention to “phase out” alcohol sponsorship of cultural and sporting events, even though she admitted there was a “nervousness” among some ministerial colleagues over sources of alternative sponsorship.
She said health insurance sponsorship should be targeted.
The junior minister said the new substance strategy would be published in “the next two to three months” with a memo going to the Government shortly.
Ms Shortall made her comments at the launch of a revamped Dial to Stop Drug Dealing service in inner city Dublin.
The service, which began in Blanchardstown in west Dublin in 2008, has received 10,500 calls and instigated 3,000 reports to gardaí about drug dealing in different areas.
Now the service is being linked with Crimestoppers, meaning that anybody concerned about drug dealing in their area can call the confidential number, 1800 250025, anonymously and it will be passed to gardaí.
Irish Crimestoppers Trust said 30% of its calls related to drugs.
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