Home > Northern Ireland launches combined alcohol and drugs strategy.

Pike, Brigid (2006) Northern Ireland launches combined alcohol and drugs strategy. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 18, Summer 2006, pp. 16-17.

PDF (Drugnet Ireland, issue 18) - Published Version

In 2001 the Northern Ireland administration adopted a ‘joint implementation model’ for its alcohol and drugs strategies.1 In 2005 it published the results of a review of the two strategies and their joint implementation.2 Twelve months later, on 8 May 2006, it took the next step, launching a combined strategy – New Strategic Direction for Alcohol and Drugs 2006–2011 (NSD).3 

Professor Howard Parker, who undertook the review of the two strategies and their implementation,2 reported that the majority of stakeholders were in favour of merging the alcohol and drug strategies as alcohol was ‘routinely marginalised in terms of investment’ (p. 45). While some thought tobacco should be included, others feared this might lead to an over-emphasis on the health aspects and marginalise other components such as enforcement or community safety.

Parker also found that stakeholders strongly supported joint implementation. Local practitioners recognised the interplay of alcohol and drugs in their work and, at a policy level, the overlaps between the youth and criminal justice systems, and prison and workplace policies, were recognised. Parker also noted that ‘in such a small country joint implementation is necessary to produce economies of scale’ (p. 45).

The ‘overall aim’ of the combined strategy (NSD)3 is ‘to reduce the level of alcohol and drug-related harm in Northern Ireland’. Four ‘overarching long-term aims’ focus on demand-reduction measures in relation to both alcohol and drugs in the areas of treatment, harm reduction, awareness, and prevention. There is just one over-arching long-term aim on the supply side – to ‘reduce the availability of illicit drugs in Northern Ireland’. An annual progress report will be published, reporting against a series of ‘key indicators’, nine each for alcohol and for illicit drugs.


Alcohol - Key indicators

  • Numbers referred to treatment
  • Hospital admissions – primary and secondary diagnosis
  • Alcohol-related deaths
  • Binge drinking target
  • Prevalence (hazardous drinking; problem drinkers)
  • Per capita consumption or expenditure
  • Acohol-related crime
  • Drink-driving
  • Public perceptions of alcohol as a social problem
Drugs - key indicators 
  • Numbers referred to treatment
  •  Hospital admissions – primary and secondary diagnosis
  • Drug-related deaths
  •  Blood-borne viruses among injecting drug users
  • Prevalence (including problem prevalence)
  • Drug-related crime
  • Drug-driving
  • Disruption of supply markets
  • Public perceptions of drugs as a social problem

The authors of the NSD have designed a planning framework based on a ‘logic model’. While more complex than the simple linear approach adopted in Ireland’s National Drugs Strategy,4 arguably the NSD framework will prove more flexible and adaptable. It is constructed around three inter-related components:

 Five pillars (prevention and early intervention; treatment and support; law and criminal justice; harm reduction; and monitoring, evaluation and research) provide the ‘conceptual and practice base’, i.e. identify the inputs to be made by service providers.

Two themes (children, young people and families; and adults and the general public) provide for an ‘integrated and co-ordinated approach to be developed incorporating elements of the five pillars as appropriate’, i.e. ensure a client focus.

Fourteen key priorities (including development of a four-tier service model and children’s services; promoting good-practice education and prevention programmes; targeting those at risk and vulnerable; addressing under-age and binge drinking; reducing illicit drug availability and  use; tackling anti-social behaviour; addressing community issues; developing effectiveness indicators for treatment; supporting harm-reduction approaches; and developing the workforce) will ‘form the cornerstone of work over the next five years and reflect the issues identified as of crucial importance through the Review and the extensive pre-consultation exercise’, i.e. ensure the relevance of the NSD.

To draw these components together in pursuit of the overarching long-term aims of the NSD, the various work programmes and activities are grouped under eight outcomes:

  1. Children, Young People and Families (Treatment and Support)
  2. Children, Young People and Families (Prevention and Early Intervention)
  3. Adults and the General Public (Treatment and Support)
  4. Adults and the General Public (Prevention and Early Intervention)
  5. Adults and the General Public (Anti-Social Behaviour)
  6. Monitoring, Evaluation and Research
  7. Workforce Development
  8. Other

 Timeframes for the achievement of these outcomes, comprising short-term (18-month), medium-term (3-year) and long-term (5-year) outcomes, are specified. During the lifetime of the NSD, these outcomes will be measured and the overall success or otherwise of achieving the long-term aims will be measured by the Key Indicators described above.

 The structure of institutional mechanisms to oversee the implementation and co-ordination of the NSD is based on the same principles as those applied in Ireland’s National Drugs Strategy. One innovation is the appointment of four ‘advisory groups’ – on children, young persons and families; on treatment and support; on law and criminal justice; and on binge drinking. These advisory groups will advise the New Strategic Direction Steering Group (the  equivalent of our National Drugs Strategy Team) in respect of the particular issues, comment on particular work towards the outcomes of the NSD, and make recommendations as to future work and directions. Stakeholders and local communities, including service users, will be represented on these advisory groups.

 1.  Model for the Joint Implementation of the Drug and Alcohol Strategies (May 2001) www.dhsspsni.gov.uk/jointdrug.pdf

2.  H Parker (2005) Better managing Northern Ireland’s alcohol and drug problems – A review of the NI alcohol and drug strategies and the efficiency and effectiveness of their implementation (March 2005) www.dhsspsni.gov.uk/drugs-alcohol-Report-NI-review.pdf

3. New Strategic Direction for Alcohol and Drugs 2006–2011 (May 2006) www.dhsspsni.gov.uk/nsdad-finalversion-may06.pdf

4. Building on experience: National Drugs Strategy 2001–2008. Dublin: Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation.


Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
Issue Title
Issue 18, Summer 2006
April 2006
Page Range
pp. 16-17
Health Research Board
Issue 18, Summer 2006
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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