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Pike, Brigid (2008) RDTF strategies and treatment. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 25, Spring 2008, p. 7.

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The regional drugs task forces (RDTFs) are responsible for co-ordinating the implementation in the regions of national drug policies, as set out in the National Drugs Strategy. Previous issues of Drugnet Ireland have looked at the overall approach taken by the RDTFs in their first strategic or action plans, and their specific responses in the areas of co-ordination, supply reduction and prevention. In this issue the responses of the RDTFs under the Treatment and Research pillars are examined.1

The RDTFs endorse the approach to drug-related treatment set out in the National Drugs Strategy and call for full implementation in their regions – including, for example, the continuum of care model and the use of key workers; the targeting of under-18s; the integration of prison-based and community-based treatment services; the provision of childcare facilities; and the exploration of alternative medical and non-medical treatments. The RDTF strategies also endorse the responses to emerging needs identified in the Mid-Term Review of the National Drugs Strategy, including the need to develop comprehensive rehabilitation services, and to provide support services for the parents and families of drug users as well as for drug users themselves.

Some treatment services mentioned in the national policy documents are given prominent attention in the RDTF strategies, for example, crisis support and point-of-contact services available at all times; both residential and community-based detoxification services; drop-in centres, half-way and three-quarter-way houses for respite care; and services impacting on the awareness, transmission, treatment and management of blood-borne viruses.
In relation to treatment availability and accessibility, a number of RDTFs point out that urban areas may have a critical mass of service users concentrated in the one locality, resulting in economies of scale for service provision and ease of access for users. In rural areas, however, service users may be widely scattered in small villages or remote areas, without easy access to transport. This poses logistical and social challenges in terms of providing services that are both accessible to users (either by offering transport to larger centres or by providing services locally), and also discreet (in order to minimise the risk of stigma). A number of structural adjustments are proposed, including one-stop addiction assessment and referral points; a standardised treatment infrastructure consisting of main treatment centres and satellite clinics, with particular emphasis on the network of community pharmacies and general practitioners (GPs); and greater integration of GP and community-based treatment services.
The possibilities of drug testing, not mentioned in the National Drugs Strategy, are discussed. The South-East RDTF comments, ‘Those young people most at risk will be helped through increased outreach and community treatment. They could also benefit from new initiatives including drug testing, referral to innovative and increasing treatment facilities, drop-in centres, mentoring and one-to-one counselling facilities as well as awareness raising programmes’.2 The Southern RDTF canvasses the idea that, ‘With due recognition of the rights of every citizen before the Courts, urine samples should be sought from young people in this situation and evidence of illegal drugs in the system should be taken into account in deciding how best to respond to the needs of that person.’3 

  Harm reduction principles on which the South-East RDTF predicates its drug strategy 4 

1.      Accepts, for better and for worse that licit and illicit drug use is part of our world and chooses to work to minimize its harmful effects rather than ignore or condemn them.
2.      Understands drug use as a complex, multi-faceted behavioural phenomenon, ranging between severe abuse and total abstinence, and acknowledges that some ways of using drugs are safer than others.
3.      Establishes quality of individual and community life and well-being – not necessarily cessation of all drug use – as the criteria for successful interventions and policies.
4.      Calls for the non-judgemental, non-coercive provision of services and resources to people who use drugs and the communities in which they live in order to assist them in reducing attendant harm.
5.       Ensures that drug users and those with a history of drug use routinely have a real voice in the creation of programs and policies designed to serve them.
6.       Affirms drug users themselves as the primary agents of reducing the harms of their drug use, and seeks to empower users to share information and support each other in strategies which meet their actual conditions of use.
7.      Recognises that the realities of poverty, class, racism, social isolation, past trauma, sex-based discrimination and other social inequalities affect both people’s vulnerability to and capacity for effectively dealing with drug-related harm.
8.      Does not attempt to minimise or ignore the real and tragic harm and danger associated with licit and illicit drug use.
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 research is considered in an article on page x of this issue of Drugnet Ireland.
2. South-East Regional Drugs Task Force (February 2005) Strategic Development Plan 2005–2008, p. 56.
3. Southern Regional Drugs Task Force (February 2005) Strategic Plan, p. 87.
4. South-East Regional Drugs Task Force (February 2005) Strategic Development Plan 2005–2008, pp. 56–7.


Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Issue Title
Issue 25, Spring 2008
Page Range
p. 7
Health Research Board
Issue 25, Spring 2008
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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