One of the country’s leading drugs experts has called for more treatment places outside of Dublin to deal with increasing numbers of heroin addicts.
A review by the Health Research Board found cocaine abuse remained low around the country but the amount of people needing help for opiate use had gone up 96% between 2001 and 2006.
Dr Jean Long, head of the HRB’s alcohol and drug research unit, said the number of new cases seeking treatment for heroin abuse in the capital dropped by a third.
“This decrease indicates that the heroin epidemic has abated in this area,” Dr Long said.
“In contrast, there was a 96% increase in the number of new opiate cases outside Dublin.
“The latter finding, along with the number of opiate users who are waiting for methadone treatment, indicate that additional methadone treatment places are required outside Dublin.”
The HRB study found more than 12,000 people sought help for drug problems for the first time between 2001 and 2006.
Cannabis, opiates such as heroin and cocaine were the most commonly abused drugs and since 2001 cocaine use has spread nationwide, although only 10% of those seeking treatment reported it as a problem.
Dr Jean Long said: “Almost three out of four new cases presenting for treatment used more than one drug, which increases the complexity of the case and is associated with poorer treatment outcomes.
“We examined the association between main problem drugs and additional drugs among new cases and found that the additional problem drugs were linked with the main problem drug.
“For example, additional drugs used with cannabis and cocaine indicate their link with alcohol and other recreational drugs
“The data in this paper clearly show an overlap between alcohol and other drug use, highlighting the need for an integrated approach to the management of substance misuse in Ireland.”
The HRB review said a total of 68,754 cases aged between 15 and 64 were treated for problem drug use between 2001 and 2006 – some cases were people returning for treatment.
But it said 18% were new cases seeking help for the first time.
The HRB said a typical drug user was a young man, with little education and likely to be unemployed and, in a small number of cases, with no stable home.
Almost one in five new cases presenting for treatment for problem drug use were under 18.
And at least half of treated drug users started using drugs when they were 15 years old.
“These characteristics indicate the importance of accommodation, personal development and education and employment opportunities as part of the drug treatment and reintegration process,” Dr Long said.
“These factors were identified in the report of the working group on drugs rehabilitation and it is essential that the recommendations in this report are implemented.”