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Pike, Brigid (2008) RDTF strategies and research. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 25, Spring 2008, p. 6.

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This article completes a series of articles in recent issues of Drugnet Ireland on the first round of strategic and action plans produced by the regional drugs task forces (RDTFs).1 It looks at the manner in which the RDTFs address the fourth pillar of the National Drugs Strategy – Research.

The importance of research, and the resulting ‘research-based evidence’, is acknowledged by every RDTF. In some instances, research is identified as a strategic objective or priority, in others, as an action. The RDTFs note several shortcomings in the current provision for research activities. Drug-related research is generally conducted by national agencies (e.g. the National Advisory Committee on Drugs, the Health Research Board, Merchants Quay Ireland, the Addiction Research Centre in Trinity College, Dublin, or the Drug Treatment Centre Board), focuses on the national picture and does not provide detailed local information. Even when research is locally based, it tends to be issue-defined rather than geographically determined.
The RDTFs argue that ‘well-conducted, locally-based research’ is required, to ensure that resources can be allocated efficiently and effectively within RDTF areas. Calls are made for research into, variously:
the extent and nature of the drugs situation in a region (comparable in one instance to the ESPAD survey) and the ability to monitor emerging trends;
  • the needs of people living in smaller towns and rural areas, including access to services, and the needs of specific groups in a region, including homeless people, Travellers, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, the parasuicidal, non-Irish-nationals, young people, and children affected by problematic drug use;
  • service-related options, such as the feasibility and options for introducing harm-related interventions; the feasibility of providing residential rehabilitation services for women who have young children; facilities available, particularly for young people; the optimal means of providing treatment in localities adjacent to local drugs task force areas.
As well as calling for research to support sound planning, a number of RDTFs stress the importance of evaluative research. It is viewed as a tool for ‘reviewing and reflecting on practice; … informing further planning and practice; sharing and disseminating experiences, learning and good practice; being accountable …; making a case for further funding’.2 One RDTF also emphasises the contribution that research can make to a community development approach to the drugs issue:
This [community development] is a two way method of working and steps must be taken through the development and dissemination of sound and meaningful research within the Region to equip all stakeholders, community activists, and drug workers with accurate and up-to-date research and information. In turn, the availability of such research, and interpretations of it, will further equip parents, teachers, youth workers and young people to address drugs with a more comprehensive understanding and knowledge of their availability, outcomes, prevention techniques and projects, treatment methodology and accessibility, and support where required.3
The need for adequate funding for research efforts is highlighted. One RDTF observes that, in general, funding is only allocated to research if it is considered that other drug-related services are already properly funded and that this has led to situations where research activities have remained low on the agenda. Furthermore, owing to time and resource constraints, ‘evaluation often becomes tacked on as “monitoring” which is frequently carried out by already stretched project staff who have limited experience in this area and very little time available to carry it out’.4 
1. See Pike B (2006) RDTF strategies push out the boundaries. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 20: 11–12; Pike B (2007) Tools for co-ordinating drugs initiatives in the regions. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 21: 6–7; Pike B (2007) RDTF strategies and supply reduction. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 23: 4; Pike B (2007) RDTF strategies and prevention. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 24: 10–11. The RDTFs and treatment are considered in an article on page x of this issue of Drugnet Ireland.
2. East Coast Regional Drugs Task Force (n.d.) Action Plan 2005–2008, p. 96.
3. South-East Regional Drugs Task Force (February 2005) Strategic Development Plan 2005–2008, pp. 57–8.
4. South-West Regional Drugs Task Force (February 2005) Strategy Document, p. 72.
The NACD and drug research in the community and voluntary sectors
The recently published evaluation of the pilot community and voluntary sector research grants scheme funded by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD)1 found that it had been a positive experience for all parties involved. The author recommended that the scheme should continue. However, given the relatively high cost of the scheme, she also recommended that the NACD should run the scheme in alternate years only, and that it should establish structures at a regional level to support the community organisations, funded by developing the grant scheme in partnership with the RDTFs and setting up regional research advisory groups.
1. Ennals K (2007) An evaluation of the pilot community and voluntary sector research grant scheme 2001–2005 for the National Advisory Committee on Drugs.
Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Issue Title
Issue 25, Spring 2008
Page Range
p. 6
Health Research Board
Issue 25, Spring 2008
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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