Addiction to multiple drugs is becoming such a problem that gardaí, medics, and treatment specialists almost hanker for the days when middle-aged alcoholics were their biggest problem and pubs were the epicentre of socialising.
Speakers from across the board at a conference called The Trends and Future Challenges of Addiction, agreed that being an alcoholic alone is very much the exception for addicts seeking treatment and that the majority also use street drugs and/or painkillers and benzo-diazepines.
Consultant in emergency medicine, Dr Chris Luke, described multiple addiction as “the greatest existential threat to the State since the civil war”. Dr Luke, who is based at Cork’s Mercy University Hospital, said he was “frequently in despair” at the condition of multi- drug users who presented for treatment at A&E.
Champion of the homeless, Fr Peter McVerry, said when he started out over 30 years ago, “the biggest problem was the off-licence selling drink to kids”.
“I wish that was still the challenge. Each drug that comes along is doing more harm then the last.
“In a few years time, we’ll wish we had a heroin problem because what we are facing now with crystal meth and crack cocaine is terrifying.”
Mick Finn, a Cork-based Chief Superintendent, said when he was a young policeman, the biggest problem facing Cork City was alcohol.
“I’m afraid things have changed drastically,” he said. “We’ve had to face a heroin epidemic. It’s here, it’s in every town and city around the country.”
He said while there was a time “when we gave out about pubs”, now “we welcome seeing young people in pubs because at least there is some level of supervision”.
“The way pubs are dwindling is bad for society on one level,” he said.
GP Dr John Murphy, who provides medical cover at addiction treatment centre Tabor Lodge in south Cork, said in light of the harm caused by multiple addiction and the complexities of treating it, one could almost say “bring back alcohol, all is forgiven”.
“The problems then were very severe but relatively manageable,” he said.
The challenges of treating multiple addiction in an under-resourced sector were highlighted by a variety of professionals yesterday attending the Tabor Group annual conference in Cork.
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