Dáil debates

Thursday, 18 February 2021

Covid-19 (Drug and Alcohol Services, and Homelessness): Statements


11:20 am

Photo of Niamh SmythNiamh Smyth (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

Substance abuse, principally drug and alcohol misuse, is rising throughout our country. As a rural Deputy, I see the growth of drug use in every corner of Cavan-Monaghan and north Meath. It is no longer confined to towns and the margins of society or shadowy places. It is in every strata of society in every village and townland. Young and old are represented in drug misuse statistics and the longer people sustain drug misuse, the more likely they are to die because of that misuse. There are more drug-related deaths than road fatalities. That is staggering.

At an AA meeting, new members introduce themselves by their name and their admission of addiction, which is the first tentative step of acknowledging the problem and seeking recovery. I fear that we are not near that stage with drug addiction in rural Ireland. With the availability and spread of drugs throughout the country we are in danger of losing a generation if we do not engage with the issue as quickly as possible. We must start by recognising the problem and its extent, having support groups within towns throughout the country, ensuring there are resources and services dealing with the addictions, and widely promoting and making helplines available.

The social acceptance of drug and alcohol use has severe implications for the longer term. Serious health problems are being stored, and dysfunctional families and lost individuals are other consequences. Peer education surrounding the dangers of alcohol and drug misuse is another venue worthy of developing and piloting nationally. The dated approach we have seen up to now of lecturing and highlighting risks is now seen as counterproductive. The power of peers promoting health and well-being among youths and within clubs may achieve much more.

Will the Minister of State continue her endeavours in making Jigsaw a priority in Cavan and Monaghan, as we have one of the highest rates of youth suicide in the country?


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