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Home > 23. Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs further to his announcement of an evaluation of the 277 pilot projects funded by LDTFs, which are charged with implementing the National Drug Strategy 2001 to 2008 in communities experiencing the worst levels of drug abuse, the position in relation to the evaluation of pilot cocaine projects around the city; if he intends mainstreaming many of these projects. [31192/06]

[Oireachtas] 23. Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs further to his announcement of an evaluation of the 277 pilot projects funded by LDTFs, which are charged with implementing the National Drug Strategy 2001 to 2008 in communities experiencing the worst levels of drug abuse, the position in relation to the evaluation of pilot cocaine projects around the city; if he intends mainstreaming many of these projects. [31192/06]. (05 Oct 2006)

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24. Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the new projects specifically intended to deal with cocaine misuse which have been established since 2002; the total moneys allocated to these projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31208/06]

47. Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the latest efforts being made to address the spread and widespread use of cocaine here; his views on whether cocaine is now the drug of choice for many people; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31273/06]

 Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Mr. N. Ahern): I propose to take Questions Nos. 23, 24 and 47 together. The first Drug Prevalence Survey in Ireland and Northern Ireland (commissioned by the NACD and DAIRU) was carried out in 2002/2003 covering the 15-64 age group. This survey indicated that lifetime prevalence for cocaine use among young adults (15-34 years) was 4.7% and that 2% of young adults had taken the drug in the previous year. The second Drug Prevalence Survey, which has just commenced and which will run to April 2007 with first results appearing in autumn next year, will provide us with an up-to-date view of the levels of change in cocaine use among the general population and, in particular, the 15-34 age group which are most at risk. Anecdotal evidence, the increase in seizures by Gardaí and the numbers reporting for treatment suggests that there has been a growth in the use of cocaine, albeit from a very low base. While I am confident that, through the implementation of the actions in the National Drugs Strategy, the problem of cocaine use can be and is being addressed, I also recognised the need for an overview of the emerging threat from cocaine. To this end, I asked the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and the National Drug Strategy Team to prepare a joint briefing paper on the current situation with regards to cocaine use. I received this report in September and my Department is currently considering it in consultation with the other Departments and Agencies involved. Meanwhile the evaluation of the interim funded Local Drugs Task Force projects, many of which address the issue of polydrug use including cocaine, is to commence shortly and decisions on their future will be made in the light of the results of their evaluation. It is hoped that this process will be completed by mid 2007. While the work of many existing projects includes countering the threat of all drugs, including cocaine, a number of cocaine specific projects have been set up in the last two years. I launched four pilot cocaine treatment projects to examine different methods of treatment for cocaine use, as well as providing training initiatives focusing on frontline workers. Funding of almost €400,000 has been provided by me to support these initiatives. The four pilot projects are: Problematic intranasal cocaine users (South Dublin); Poly drug users (South Inner city); Problematic female cocaine users (East Coast Area Health Board); and Intravenous cocaine users (North Inner City). The evaluation of all but one of these projects (that project is still at an early stage) is nearing completion. Under the Emerging Needs Fund, which I established in 2005, 6 projects that specifically target the issue of cocaine use are being supported with a total funding package of €421,285. Five of the projects are focused on direct community based services for cocaine users located within existing services and the sixth has supported the development of an information booklet for dissemination in the Drugs Task Force area involved. There is no substitution treatment drug for cocaine and existing services such as counselling and behavioural therapy are the best treatments available. In this context, the Health Service Executive has recruited additional counsellors and outreach workers in the last number of years and the training initiative mentioned above has been rolled out. I might also point out that all schools now have substance misuse prevention programmes. In addition, the National Drugs Awareness Campaign focused specifically on cocaine use in one of their campaigns. This campaign sought to dispel the image held by some that cocaine is a clean and safe drug with few detrimental consequences. The problems associated with cocaine use are not being underestimated and I believe that progress is being made in that regard. I will continue to respond in a flexible and focused way as the situation evolves. Vol. 624 No. 5 Written Answers. Thursday, 5 October 2006

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