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Galvin, Brian (2008) 2008 report on the drugs problem in Europe. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 28, Winter 2008, pp. 6-7.

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There are between 1.3 and 1.7 million problem opioid users in the EU and Norway, with heroin responsible for Europe’s largest drug-related health and social costs, according to the Annual report 2008: the state of the drugs problem in Europe, published by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) in November.1 Data suggest that heroin use across Europe is stable but no longer diminishing. Some 12 million Europeans (15–64 years) have tried cocaine in their lifetime, compared with around 11 million for amphetamines and 9.5 million for ecstasy. While the latest European data confirm reports of a stabilising or even declining trend in the use of amphetamines and ecstasy, they point to a continued rise in cocaine use, albeit in a small number of countries. The Health Research Board (HRB) provides the Irish figures for the EMCDDA. 

Ireland, like more than half of all EU countries, reported an increase in new opioid cases entering treatment since 2005, with 1,032 new cases reported in 2007. Ireland, compared to an average of 47% across Europe. In Ireland 9,769 cases received substitution treatment for opioid use in 2007.Figures from 2001 indicate that there are between 13,405 and 15,819 problem opiate users in Ireland.As in most other European countries, there was an increase in drug-related deaths in Ireland in 2004 and 2005. The increase was largely due to an increase in opiate and cocaine-related deaths. There were 159 drug-induced deaths in Ireland in 2005, of which 88% were associated with opiate use.  Research shows that the risk of overdose decreases substantially when heroin users are in substitution treatment.
Around 3.5 million young Europeans (15–34 years) have used cocaine in the last year, and 1.5 million in the last month. In Ireland the proportion of young adults who reported using cocaine in the last year increased from 2% in 2002/3 to 3% in 2006/7. The European rate ranged between 0.2% and 5.4%, placing Ireland among the high prevalence countries, such as the UK, Spain, Denmark and Italy, which have all seen a rise in the use of cocaine. Many EU countries report an increased demand for treatment for problem cocaine use.  Data from Ireland’s National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS) show a considerable increase in cases reporting cocaine as a main problem drug, from 81 in 2001 to 770 (of which 462 were new cases) in 2007. Some 500 (12%) drug-induced deaths associated with cocaine use were reported to the EMCDDA for 2006; there were 34 (21%) such deaths in Ireland in 2005. As in many EU countries, the number of cocaine seizures in Ireland has increased with time, from 515 in 2003 to 1,500 in 2006.
Ecstasy and amphetamines
The proportion of young adults in Ireland who reported using ecstasy in the last year remained relatively stable at 2.3% in 2002/3 and 2.4% in 2006/7. The European rate ranged between 0.4% and 7.7%, placing Ireland among the medium prevalence countries. The number of treated cases who reported ecstasy as a main problem drug decreased considerably, from 219 in 2001 to 129 in 2007. The number of deaths in which ecstasy was implicated, alone or in conjunction with another drug, averaged 10 a year between 2002 and 2005. Amphetamine use is relatively uncommon in Ireland, with the percentage of adults who reported use in the last year remaining stable at 0.4% in 2002/3 and 2006/7. 
Cannabis use has not declined in Ireland, as it has in other parts of Europe, and remains the most commonly used illegal drug in this country. The proportion of adults who used it in the last year increased from 5% in 2002/3 to 6.3% in 2006/7, placing Ireland just below the EU average of 7%.  While cannabis seizures account for the majority of all drugs seized in Ireland, the number of cases reporting cannabis as a main problem drug decreased steadily, from 1,370 in 2001 to 967 in 2007, of which 16% were new cases, compared to the EU average of 21%.
Vulnerable young people
While EU countries increasingly prioritise the risk of problem drug use to vulnerable young people, this political commitment is not matched by practical responses to reduce these risks. The existing responses favour office-based or centre-based services over outreach work.
In Ireland young people vulnerable to drug use include children leaving state care and those in juvenile detention or special care facilities, early school leavers, homeless youth, people whose parents have a history of problem substance use, young people living in marginalised urban communities and, to some extent, Travellers. A number of Irish policy documents, including the National Development Plan, the Plan for Social Inclusion and the National Children’s Strategy, as well as the National Drugs Strategy, contain measures to help vulnerable young people through education, sport and recreation.  Primary prevention measures are delivered through the school programmes Walk Tall and SPHE and the Young People’s Facilities and Services Fund (YPFSF). Arrest referral schemes provide information about appropriate services to young drug-using offenders and facilitate referral to treatment.
1. The full report and all related media material are available on the EMCDDA website at
Item Type
Publication Type
International, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Issue Title
Issue 28, Winter 2008
Page Range
pp. 6-7
Health Research Board
Issue 28, Winter 2008
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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