Written answers

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Department of Health

National Drugs Strategy

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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151. To ask the Minister for Health his views regarding the increased use and purity of cocaine; if he has met with the Minister for Justice and Equality to discuss same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24760/19]

Photo of Catherine ByrneCatherine Byrne (Dublin South Central, Fine Gael)
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In Ireland the most recent general population survey was completed in 2014-15. This shows that 2.9 per cent of 15–34-year olds used cocaine in the last year which had not changed since the 2010/11 survey. This is lower than the corresponding figure for the UK (4.7%), the Netherlands (4.5%) and roughly the same as Denmark and France.

The Health Research Board is are currently carrying out the 2018/19 General Population Survey on drug use and we expect preliminary results by the end of 2019.

The most recent published data from Forensic Science Ireland (FSI) on cocaine purity are for October 2016.  These showed that the average purity of “Bulk Cocaine” (i.e. seizures over 25 grams) was 40%. The average purity of “Street Level Cocaine” (i.e. smaller seizures) was 28% in Dublin and 19% outside Dublin (overall average:  24%).  No major shift in purity has been noted since then.  Updated data will be published later this year.  Further information on drugs case types submitted for analysis is contained in the FSI Annual Report for 2018, which is available on the FSI website www.forensicscience.ie

The national drug strategy ‘Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery’ recognises the need to strengthen early harm reduction responses to current and emerging trends and patterns of drug use. 

I am committed to reducing drug-related harm in our society, especially drug-related deaths. I recently announced that €1 million in additional funding will be provided to support the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy. This funding will support regional initiatives on emerging trends and patterns of drug use, including cocaine and crack cocaine.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

152. To ask the Minister for Health if he is considering a campaign against cocaine use; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24763/19]

Photo of Catherine ByrneCatherine Byrne (Dublin South Central, Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

In Ireland the most recent general population survey was completed in 2014-15. This shows that 2.9 per cent of 15–34-year olds used cocaine in the last year which had not changed since the 2010/11 survey. The HRB are currently carrying out the 2018/19 General Population Survey on drug use and we expect results by the end of 2019.

Our national drug strategy ‘Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery’ recognises the need to strengthen early harm reduction responses to current and emerging trends and patterns of drug use. There is limited evidence that mass media campaigns are effective at reducing the use of drugs and alcohol. Therefore, targeted awareness campaigns are favoured.

In July 2018, I launched a national cocaine harm reduction campaign. This was a collaboration between the HSE and the Ana Liffey Drugs Project. The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness of the dangers of taking cocaine (both powder and crack). The campaign communicates the risks and dangers of cocaine use to dependent users and at-risk groups, as well as to those who engage in ‘recreational use’. It is important to increase awareness of the risks associated with drugs like crack cocaine and highlight how these risks are hugely increased when combined with alcohol.

Recently, the HSE, in partnership with the Union of Students in Ireland, launched a new harm-reduction information campaign, called #SaferStudentNights. The HSE in conjunction with the Department of Education are also in the final stages of developing an educational prevention programme for schools in relation to drugs and alcohol both for the Junior Cycle and the Senior cycle (‘Know the Score’).

I am committed to reducing drug-related harm in our society, especially drug-related deaths. I recently announced that €1 million in additional funding will be provided to support the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy. This funding will support regional initiatives on emerging trends and patterns of drug use, including cocaine and crack cocaine.

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