Dublin: Rising Tide Of Heroin Addiction As 600 New Injectors Seek Charities Help

30 Sep

NEARLY 600 new heroin injectors presented themselves to one of the country’s largest drug and homeless charities last year.

Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI) said a total of 4,308 users sought help with them in 2010, up 5% on 2009. Some 575 of these were new injectors.

It said this rise coincided with one of the biggest droughts of heroin to hit the country from October on.

MQI chief executive Tony Geoghegan said: “The figures serve as a reminder that heroin use remains at very high levels and that significant numbers of new people are beginning to use heroin every year.”

He said the charity operated in 11 counties, reflecting how the heroin problem was now a national one. Mr Geoghegan said that 24% of the users attending their 17-week residential drug programme in Dublin were from HSE South (Cork and Kerry).

The report said that of the 62 people that went through the residential programme last year, 15 were from HSE South, including 12 from Cork.

Mr Geoghegan also said that 15 of the 34 new users (44% of the total) attending their therapeutic residential programme at St Francis Farm in Tullow, Co Carlow, were from the South East.

“Our figures confirm that heroin is a national crisis. The treatment figures from the Health Research Board back that up.”

He said that addressing homelessness and the drugs crisis was “fundamentally about reducing human misery” and should not be reduced to economics.

“Nonetheless, in this era where policy is focused almost exclusively on reducing public expenditure, it is important to again draw notice to the fact that according to the British Home Office every £1 spent on drug treatment saves £3 in criminal justice costs alone. When health savings are included the saving is £9.50 [€11].

“Investing in harm reduction services directly reduces health care expenditure.

“Investment in drug substitution treatment has been shown to reduce other healthcare costs and to reduce crime and investment in drug free treatment and aftercare can reduce expenditure on healthcare, criminal justice and social welfare.

“Most of all investing in all of these areas reduces the misery associated with drug use for everybody.”

He said there was “no sense of urgency” from the Government to address the problems of drug addiction and homelessness.

He said their funding from the HSE this year was down over 6%: “The only reason why we can keep going, and even set up new services, is through voluntary contributions.”

www.mqi.ie & www.drugs.ie

NEWS UPDATE:

‘Demand tsunami’ faced by homeless charities

CHARITIES who deal with homelessness are reporting a surge in demand for their services and have warned of a “demand tsunami” this winter.

The expected increase in demand has prompted calls for action to address why the number of people with nowhere to live is growing despite thousands of unsold houses and apartments lying vacant across the country.

Dublin Simon, the largest of the eight Simon communities, revealed in its latest report how it has recorded a 26% increase in the number of people sleeping rough during the early summer months compared with the same period last year.

It also reported a 35% increase in demand for sleeping packs — essential items to tide people over a night on the street — despite the fact that demand for such help usually falls during the summer months.

In a separate report, Merchants Quay Ireland said it was also providing 1,100 extra meals every week for mainly homeless and financially desperate people compared with the same time last year, a rise of 26%.

Dublin Simon chief executive Sam McGuinness said the figures came despite the group increasing bed numbers by 27% and emergency beds — mattresses on floors — by 100% in response to the past two winters. He said the charity was facing a “demand tsunami” this winter.

“Supply and demand are not in line and for the first time in quite some time. Sleeping bags are being handed out again,” he said.

“The critical issue is that all we can do when we get a bubble like this is stick people in emergency accommodation — 37% of people . . . have been there over five years and 74% have been there over a year.

“That’s an emergency becoming a long-term situation,” he added.

The Simon Communities of Ireland said their services are operating at full capacity across the country.

Niamh Randall, the national research and policy manager, said the surge in Dublin was likely to be replicated. “We wouldexpect to see it first in the urban centres. That’s one of the reasons why the Dublin Simon figures are so worrying.”

Last week, the Government’s own housing needs assessment revealed 98,318 households were on waiting lists for social housing — a 75% increase since 2008 — while 23,000 new homes are estimated to be lying empty with up to 100,000 partially completed units also potentially available.

Merchants Quay Ireland saw a 38% increase in the number of people using its homelessness drop-in service. Chief executive Tony Geoghegan said: “This is an indication of the increasing poverty and desperation experienced by so many in our society.” He said the Government displayed “no sense of urgency” in tackling the problem.

The Department of the Environment is due shortly to complete a review of the previous government’s five-year strategy on homelessness and set new targets for eliminating the numbers sleeping on the streets or in temporary accommodation.

NEWS UPDATE:

Minister to include alcohol in new drugs strategy

The Drugs Minister Roisin Shorthall has said she will be announcing a new strategy to deal with the alcohol problem in Ireland later this year.

The Minister made the comments as she launched Merchants Quay Ireland’s annual report for 2010 which found that the number of people contacting the charity increased by 26%.

Minister Shorthall said, while illegal substance abuse is a major problem in Irelande she also intends to deal with alcohol abuse through the National Drugs Strategy.

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