Drug Use Across Ireland
Surveys conducted across Ireland both north and south have taken place regarding drug use. Key findings have shown that levels of illegal drug use have risen in the last five years (Journal.ie). Catherine Byrne (Minister with responsibility for drugs strategy in Ireland) has claimed that new survey findings suggests. “There is a continuing need for preventative measures under the National Drugs Strategy that focus on young people, particularly young men, their families and communities.”
Drug use in the Republic of Ireland is becoming a much bigger problem year on year. Fewer than 2 in 10 adults reported use of any illicit drug during their lifetime in 2002-03 but this figure increased to approx. 3 in 10 in 2014-15 according to EMCDDA findings. This age group (15-64) makes up most of the working population in Ireland, when drug use is on the rise it is only inevitable that it will spill into the workplace making workplace accidents more common.
The report from the EMCDDA shows that last year in Ireland 13.8% of young adults (15-34 years) had used cannabis. The same report showed 2.9% used cocaine, 4.4% used MDMA and 0.6% used Amphetamines. The Irish government launched a new national drug strategy last year calling it “Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery.” It promises a health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland from 2017 until 2025. The strategy is partly aimed at young people as statistics show drug use among this demographic is continually increasing. The first objective of this strategy is to prevent the use of drugs at a young age.
Not only has there been an increase in illicit drug use but also in prescription medication. Ireland has seen the number of prescriptions dispensed for Oxycodone increased from 47,262 in 2006 to 122,611 in 2016, a 159% increase. Prescribing of Fentanyl has almost doubled over the same period, climbing from 34,884 to 62,399. The prescription of codeine has seen an increase of 208% from 2006 to 2016. Prescription drugs were used in three out of every four overdoses resulting in death in 2014 (Journal.ie, 2016).
In Northern Ireland in 2016/17 a total of 4,368 clients presented themselves to services for problem substance misuse. Cannabis was the most commonly used drug among this group with almost two thirds reporting taking it (65.8%), this was followed by Cocaine (36.9%), Benzodiazepines (35.1%), Ecstasy (15.3%) and Heroin (10.9%) (Health NI). A Belfast GP has said that drug addiction services in Northern Ireland are overwhelmed and it is time for a multi-agency approach.
The largest proportion of clients were aged 25-34 (24.4%). Most of this age group were accessing services for drug misuse and drug and alcohol misuse. Clients accessing treatment for problem alcohol use tended to be in the older age groups, 45-54 years & 55+.
In 2015 in Northern Ireland over 40 million prescription items were dispensed equating to 110,000 every day. The BBC reported in 2017 that a coroner had warned ‘Northern Ireland has a serious problem with prescription medication.’ It was added that in the last figures Tramadol killed more people that Heroin and Fentanyl killed more people than cocaine and ecstasy combined.
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