There is “growing concern” at the level of intimidation being inflicted by drug gangs in certain communities, a Government review has said.
The mid-term review of the National Drugs Strategy 2017-2025 also said that, given the scale of the problem, a “much greater focus” on alcohol was required.
The review was conducted by Department of Health officials following feedback from community and voluntary drug organisations.
Other key findings include:
- Implementation of the Government’s landmark health referral system for people caught in possession of drugs for their own personal use was “slow”;
- Local drug and alcohol task forces feel they are “invisible” in the strategy and want to be more involved;
- Progress on actions on educating young people about the dangers of substance misuse has been “slow”.
The review did highlight “excellent collaboration” between State agencies and addiction and homeless services in minimising the impact of Covid-19, which included the rapid initiation of 863 new drug users into treatment in 2020.
The 100-page review report said that while actions to try and address drug-related intimidation had been well-received, more needed to be done.
“Further focus is required to strengthen the response on drug-related intimidation and violence, which is of growing concern,” it said.
It said criminal activity and an active illicit drug market can create an “intimidating and frightening” environment in affected communities.
"The use of violence or the threat of violence to enforce debts further impacts on these communities by creating an atmosphere of fear and undermining the health and wellbeing of families affected and the wider community.”
The review said "a much greater focus on alcohol was required for the upcoming period,” adding: “the scale of the societal problem around alcohol is such that it now needs a dedicated resource to drive change."
The report highlighted a delay in implementing recommendations to provide integrated services for people with dual diagnosis – both addiction and mental health needs – but said a key post had just been filled.
It said Government research published earlier this year estimated that labelled expenditure on drug and alcohol misuse ran at over €200m a year and the current and future unlabelled expenditure and productivity cost due to drug misuse was over €650m.
Merchants Quay Ireland co-founder and member Tony Geoghegan criticised the sudden publication of the review: "While the community sector was centrally involved in the review process, we were unaware it was finalised and certainly did not sign off on it.
"It’s a hugely disappointing development, and a real diminution of community involvement.”