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Home > Trends in treated problem drug use in Ireland, 2001 to 2006.

Long, Jean (2008) Trends in treated problem drug use in Ireland, 2001 to 2006. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 26, Summer 2008 , p. 2.

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On 14 May 2008, the Health Research Board published trends in treated problem drug use based on data reported to the National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS) and to the Central Treatment List (CTL).1 It is important to note that the reporting system collects data on episodes of treatment, rather than the number of individual people treated each year. This means that individuals may appear more than once if they attend more than one treatment service in a year, and may reappear in subsequent years.

The main findings and their implications are:
  • ·          There were 68,754 cases treated between 2001 and 2006, of which 31,620 entered treatment during the six-year period. Of these cases, 29,373 (93%) lived in Ireland at an identified address, 2,203 (7%) lived in Ireland at an unidentified address and 44 (0.1%) did not live in Ireland.
  • ·          In Ireland, treatment for problem drug use is provided in outpatient, inpatient, low-threshold and general practice settings. Of the 68,754 cases treated between 2001 and 2006, the majority (68%) attended outpatient services.
  • ·          The number of individuals in methadone treatment from the preceding calendar year and carried forward on 1 January each year increased by 46%, from 4,963 in 2001 to 7,269 in 2006.
  • ·          Just over 2,300 methadone treatment places have been created since the beginning of the current National Drugs Strategy (2001–2008) and the number of outpatient services has increased by 25%.
  • ·          Of the 5,191 cases entering treatment for problem drug use in 2006, 51% received counselling as an initial intervention, 39% received methadone substitution, 17% received a brief intervention and 14% attended medication-free therapy. Thirty-six per cent of cases received more than one initial treatment intervention.
  • ·          The prevalence (all cases) of treated problem drug use among 15–64-year-olds living in Ireland, expressed per 100,000 of the population, increased by 15%, from 372 in 2001 to 426 in 2006.
  • ·          The incidence (new cases) of treated problem drug use among 15–64-year-olds living in Ireland was marginally lower in 2006 (74.8 new cases per 100,000) than in 2001 (75.7 new cases).
  • ·          The relatively stable incidence observed during the period masks separate trends in the former health board areas. The number of new cases increased by 100% in the Western, by 57% in the Midland, by 37% in the North Eastern and by 33% in the Mid-Western health board areas between 2001 and 2006. The number of new cases increased by 89% in the South Eastern Health Board area between 2001 and 2005 and then stabilised.
  • ·          An opiate (mainly heroin) was the most common main problem drug reported by new cases who lived in Dublin. There was a 31% decrease in the number of new opiate cases who lived in Dublin, from 675 in 2001 to 468 in 2006, indicating that the heroin epidemic in this area has abated. In contrast, there was a 96% increase in the number of new opiate cases who lived outside Dublin, from 226 in 2001 to 442 in 2006.
  • ·          The main problem drugs reported by new cases were cannabis (41%), opiates (39%) and cocaine (9%). The number of new cases who reported cocaine as their main problem drug increased noticeably, from 43 in 2001 to 342 in 2006. The number of new cases reporting cannabis as their main problem drug increased marginally.
  • ·          The vast majority (72%) of new cases treated between 2001 and 2006 reported problem use of more than one substance (polysubstance use).
  • ·          In total, 2,473 new injector cases entered treatment between 2001 and 2006. Over half of these were still injecting on entry to treatment, and 47% reported sharing injecting equipment. The proportion of injector cases who reported sharing equipment decreased from 51% in 2001 to 44% in 2006, which indicates the positive effect of proactive outreach work.
  • ·          In general, problem drug users are young and male, have low levels of education and are unlikely to be employed, indicating the importance of personal development and educational and employment opportunities as part of the drug treatment and reintegration process.
  • ·          Though small, the proportion of cases who reported being homeless and the proportion not born in Ireland increased steadily during the reporting period. The increase in the proportion of other nationalities seeking treatment may have implications for service provision as drug treatment interventions rely heavily on verbal communication.

 1. Reynolds S, Fanagan S, Bellerose D and Long J (2008) Trends in treated problem drug use in Ireland, 2001 to 2006. HRB Trends Series 2. Dublin: Health Research Board.
 

 

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