Home > An assessment of treatment needs in the North Eastern RDTF.

Lyons, Suzi (2009) An assessment of treatment needs in the North Eastern RDTF. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 29, Spring 2009, p. 19.

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The North Eastern Regional Drugs Task Force (NERDTF) commissioned a needs assessment study in order to:

  • assess the number and profile of drug-users;
  • assess in-patient and out-patient drug treatment services;
  • explore needs of drug treatment service users and their families;
  • identify gaps in service provision; and
  • make recommendations for future service development and resources required.
 The study examined available quantitative data and also carried out qualitative interviews with a wide range of stakeholders, including staff working in addiction services, community and voluntary groups, drug users and family support groups.1 The NERDTF covers the counties of Louth, Meath, Cavan and Monaghan. The main results are summarised below.
 The study found that drug use in the region had increased in recent years. National prevalence data show that almost one in four people in the region reported using an illicit drug at some point in their life, and one in three in the 15-34-year age group.
The report did not include all data available at the time from the National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS); Table 1 presents the complete figures for 2001 to 2006, showing a 27% increase in the total number of cases over the six years.2  This was mainly due to the increase in new cases seeking treatment.
Table 1   Number (%) of cases entering treatment in the former North Eastern Health Board area, 2001 to 2006
All cases
Previously treated cases
125 (33.8)
99 (32.4)
146 (37.7)
130 (34.8)
125 (34.2)
149 (31.6)
New cases
221 (59.7)
186 (60.1)
229 (59.2)
236 (63.1)
224 (61.4)
303 (64.3)
Treatment status unknown
 24   (6.5)
 21   (6.9)
12   (3.1)
   8   (2.1)
  16   (4.4)
  19   (4.0)
According to the NDTRS, the incidence of treated drug use in the region for 2001-2006 was 91.3 per 100,000, an increase on the 1998-2002 rate of 50.1 per 100,000.
 The main problem drugs identified by the study were cocaine, cannabis, alcohol, heroin and prescription drugs. The main problem drugs for those entering treatment between 2001 and 2006 were cannabis (54%), opiates (27%) and cocaine (10%).2
 Most of the respondents interviewed felt that drug use was a growing problem in the region. Other issues raised included the normalisation of cannabis use to the point where it was considered equivalent to consuming alcohol. Heroin use was associated with social deprivation and rural areas, while cocaine was perceived as being used by all social classes, with use starting in the late teens. Increased polydrug use was also commented on. Increased consumption of alcohol by teenagers was reported.
 The report noted that services varied in type, quality and availability throughout the region. There was a range of outpatient services, but no dedicated inpatient facility for drug treatment and detoxification. Underdevelopment of the services was suggested as a factor in some of the weaknesses in service provision. Other issues raised included insufficient staff resources in HSE addiction services, limited collaboration between statutory and voluntary services, lack of a clear focus on polydrug use and lengthy waiting lists.
 Recommendations of the report are summarised below.
  • Provide services for residential detoxification, out-of-hours treatment, crisis and early intervention, and treatment for under-18s.
  • Provide clear access pathways and accessible information on the types of service and treatment available.
  • Move to a continuity of care model, with a case management approach, and systems to monitor progress and outcomes.
  • Widen the scope of treatment services to cover holistic care for the client and their family, and improve the support services
  • Develop a set of standards/guidelines to improve the appropriateness/location of services.
  • Adjust treatment approaches to respond to polydrug use including alcohol, and increase harm reduction approaches, including needle exchange, health education and easy access to low-threshold treatment.
  • Improve collaboration and communication between statutory and community services.
1. Watters N (2008) Drug treatment: an assessment of needs in the North East Region. Navan: North Eastern Regional Drugs Task Force.
2. 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: HRB.

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