Fianna Fáil has published a National Drugs Action Plan to respond to the escalating drugs crisis, the changes in patterns of drug abuse and the worrying lack of coordination between existing services.
The plan is as a result of extensive consultation with groups, agencies and individuals working to tackle drug abuse at community level.
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Justice Niall Collins explained, “There is an overwhelming sense that the drugs crisis has slipped off the Government’s agenda. A complete lack of political leadership has created a crisis in services on the ground and a breakdown of communication between the relevant bodies at community level.
“Fianna Fáil’s first proposal is to reappoint a Minister for Drugs with responsibility for pulling together all the existing services in the areas of health, justice, social services and local government. At the moment communication between these services is on an ad hoc basis at best, and services are often operating in isolation or even in conflict with one another. There is a desperate need for political leadership to create workable structures and close the gaping hole that’s emerged between policy makers and service providers on the ground.
“We are also proposing radical changes in the national response to the drugs crisis, which is currently too focused on treatment for heroin addicts. In reality there has been a seismic shift away from opiate use, with the numbers of new heroin addicts on the decrease. However there is an escalating crisis with poly-drug use and with the abuse of a particularly strong, synthetic form of cannabis that can create anxiety, depression and psychosis. The sale and abuse of prescription drugs has also infiltrated every community across the country.
“Fianna Fáil will implement a National Substance Misuse Strategy to respond to the shifts in patterns of drug use. This will include a response to the growing crisis with alcohol abuse. It will ensure equity of service provision in both urban and rural communities, assessment of needs at community level, implementation of evidence-based interventions and measurement of outcomes.
“Drug related crime and drug intimidation is out of control. Drug users are being intimidated into carrying drugs or dealing themselves in order pay dealers and prevent their families from being harassed. The gardaí are currently not being supported in tackling this to the extent that is needed due to a slash and burn of their resources. Fianna Fáil will develop a Drug Related Intimidation Strategy to support users and their families who are currently tortured by drug debt. We will also reinstate the Garda Divisional Drugs Units that have been cut dramatically over the past three years.
“We are also proposing a series of measures to ensure that drugs users, their families and those at risk of drug use get the support they need at a much earlier stage. This includes strengthening the roles of Regional Drug and Alcohol Taskforces, ensuring that treatment and rehabilitation services have comprehensive aftercare structures given the extremely high level of relapse, establishing support programmes in schools and establishing family support programmes for the children of drug users.”