Anti-drug efforts ‘undermined by bureaucracy’

The bureaucratic obsession with management objectives is undermining efforts to combat drug misuse, according to the head of the Southern Regional Drug Task Force.

Chairman Peadar King said this zeal has spawned its own “management speak”, peppered with words such as “organisational outputs, performance indicators, service users”, etc.

He made the comments in the task force’s report for 2011, which said alcohol, cannabis, and benzodiazepines were the “major presenting issues” last year.

The report warned of emerging issues during the year, including oxycontin, a prescription painkiller, in Killarney, and a rise in the use of “powders” in Tralee.

The report also found a rise in the use of illegal drugs, namely cannabis, as well as anti-depressants.

In his introduction, Mr King took a swipe at the emphasis on “bureaucratic management”, which he said had increased exponentially in the last three years.

“The current obsession with the relentless pursuit of these new managerial objectives, in my view, conflicts with and undermines the core work of the task force, which ought to be the care and nurturing of the individuals and communities who are adversely affected by drug misuse,” he said.

Mr King said it was not more surveillance, demands for accountability, or inquisitorial investigations that were needed, but a “culture of learning” with an “openness to the frailties” of the human condition.

Co-ordinator Chris Black said the task force, which covers Kerry and Cork, excluding Cork City, made a difference to 1,500 people.

The report found that use of illegal drugs among adults rose from 4.9% to 6.1% last year. Among young males, it rose from 9.5% to 10.8%.

The figures come from unpublished data from a national prevalence study on drug use carried out by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs.

The survey found that last year, use of anti-depressants rose from 3.7% to 5.3%.

Garda figures show there were 926 detections for personal use of drugs in 2011. Outside Cork City, there were 410 detections in Cork North, 264 in Cork West, and 252 in Kerry. There were 206 detections for supplying drugs and 69 detections for cultivating drugs, 39 in Cork West.

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