Róisín Shortall, Minister of State with responsibility for Primary Care at the Department of Health, today (18th October 2011) spoke of the degree to which substance use by parents can disrupt family relationships. Speaking at the opening of a National Advisory Committee on Drugs seminar entitled A Family Affair? Supporting Children Living with Parental Substance Misuse the Minister said “In some cases the impact can persist right through to adulthood. Even more distressing”, she said “is the fact that impacts sometimes carry through into the lives on the following generation”.
Minister Shortall said that “the real challenge is to break this cycle. The fact that substance misuse in one generation can have impacts that cascade into the lives of those following, illustrates the level of importance that we must place on targeted measures aimed at breaking the cycle and safeguarding the next generation”.
She spoke of the need to develop greater awareness among the general population about problem drug use and alcohol use, also stressing that prescription drugs are part of the problem too. “There is also a need for increased awareness of the risks associated with drug or alcohol consumption during pregnancy”, she said, referring to the worrying number of instances of Neo-natal Abstinence Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder.
Speaking of problem drug use in particular, the Minister said “I am very focused on ensuring that there is an increased emphasis on moving people on from drug treatment to a drug-free life where that is achievable. It is my belief that there has been insufficient focus on this ambitious goal in the past. In short, we must present drug users with the opportunities to achieve a life without drugs”.
Minister Shortall said that “Alcohol has become more readily available, particularly through some mixed trade outlets, and is cheaper than heretofore”. She views the misuse of alcohol as primarily a public health issue, and maintains that “a societal change of attitudes” is needed to break the cycle of over-consumption of alcohol. “We must change our approach to drinking for the benefit of our children and of future generations”, she maintained. “Against this background, the Government will develop a National Substance Misuse Strategy incorporating alcohol and drugs” she said, adding that a cross-sectoral Steering Group will finalise their recommendations to her in this regard in the coming weeks.
Minister Shortall acknowledged the combined effort of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs, the HSE and Alcohol Action Ireland in organising the seminar saying that it illustrated the kind of interagency co-operation that is needed to address problems of substance misuse in our country.
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