Some drug addicts ‘should not be prosecuted’

Drug addicts who are dealing to feed their own habit should be diverted into treatment rather than prosecuted before the courts, according to an addiction service.

Tony Duffin, director of Ana Liffey Drug Project, was responding to the findings of a major report commissioned and conducted by State research agencies.

The report, Illicit Drug Markets in Ireland, said that drug availability was “largely unaffected” by law enforcement and that the trade was more “integrated” than ever into communities.

The research, commissioned by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol (NACDA) and conducted by the Health Research Board (HRB), said that not all drugs and drug markets were the same in terms of their harm on individuals and communities.

It said the State’s focus should be on those markets that cause most harm, such as open crack and heroin dealing and markets where young people are exploited.

Mr Duffin welcomed the conclusions of the 300-page research, which was conducted over a three-year period, and involved detailed interviews with drug dealers and detectives in local and national drug units.

“This is a very pragmatic position,” said Mr Duffin. “It recognises the reality of drug markets and drug use – that they are not simple problems to be solved by allocating resources to law enforcement approaches, but complex societal issues requiring management on an ongoing basis.

“Further, it recognises that the targeting of resources should be focused on the reduction of harm,” which he said was consistent with the strategic objective of the National Drugs Strategy.

“From my point of view as the director of an addiction service, one of the most harmful aspects of drug markets is the harm drug use causes the end users — the individuals who use drugs and their families,” he said. “And, in itself, this is a complex issue.

Mr Duffin said the research quoted evidence that while police operations against street level dealing can have an impact locally, the benefits are “short lived” and can have unintended consequences to public health and safety.

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