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Long, Jean (2009) Identifying new drugs and drug trends with the help of drug helplines. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 31, Autumn 2009 , pp. 24-25.

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In July 2009 the European Foundation of Drug Helplines (FESAT) published the results from the 15th and 16th data collections for its monitoring project.1,2 Since the beginning of 2001 FESAT has been collecting information every six months on the types of person contacting helplines, the content of these calls and how this has changed compared to the previous six months. According to the author, the main objective of this monitoring is to identify the emergence of new drugs and new drug trends; the data cannot quantify the size of any such changes.  

Of the 34 relevant FESAT helplines, 14 helplines in 11 countries, including Ireland, participated in the project in the first half of 2008. This article outlines some of the main changes reported for the first half of 2008 when compared to the second half of 2007, and presents some unpublished information from the Drugs/HIV Helpline in Ireland.
 
The smallest of the 14 participating helplines in Europe answered less than one call per day, and the largest, more than 60 calls per day. Seven helplines answered 10 calls or fewer per day; six helplines answered 11 to 30 calls; one helpline answered 31 to 60 calls and one helpline answered 61 or more calls. Half of the helplines answered 13 or more calls per day. The Drugs/HIV Helpline in Ireland answered an average of 14 calls per working day, though this figure included calls about sexual health. There were 1,805 calls between January and June 2008, which represents an 8% decrease when compared to the preceding six-month period. This decrease was expected due to the fact that there was an increase in the number of calls during the pharmacy strike in October 2007 (Aileen Dooley, personal communication, 2009).
 
The FESAT report notes a decline in the numbers of helplines reporting calls about crack (9 helplines), heroin (6 helplines), ecstasy (6 helplines), cocaine (4 helplines) and hash (4 helplines) across Europe in the first half of 2008 when compared to the second half of 2007, and an increase in the number of helplines reporting calls about alcohol (10 helplines) and medications (other than opiates and benzodiazepines) (7 helplines) and benzodiazepines (4 helplines). There were mixed reports about cocaine and cannabis across Europe, with some helplines reporting increases and some reporting decreases.
 
In Ireland, there were large decreases in the number of calls to the Drugs/HIV Helpline about hashish and painkillers containing opiates in the first half of 2008 when compared to the second half of 2007. There were large increases in the number of calls about alcohol, cocaine, ecstasy and smoking heroin (Aileen Dooley, personal communication, 2009).
 
During the first half of 2008, a number of helplines in Europe received calls about drugs that had not been reported to them before. Helplines in Belgium and in Germany reported calls about the ‘spice’ products which are used to induce the same effect as cannabis. A helpline in Belgium received calls about ‘space shuttles’, which are in the form of mushrooms or herbs. A helpline in Norway received its first call about mescaline, a hallucinogenic drug.
 
1. Evenepoel T (2009) FESAT Monitoring Project ­– Report on the 15th data collection: changes during the second half of 2007. Brussels: FESAT (The European Foundation of Drug Helplines).
2. Evenepoel T (2009) FESAT Monitoring Project ­– Report on the 16th data collection: changes during the first half of 2008. Brussels: FESAT (The European Foundation of Drug Helplines).
 
 
The Drugs/HIV Helpline in Ireland is a confidential, freephone, active listening service offering non-directive support, information, guidance and referral to anyone with a question related to substance use or HIV and sexual health. Set up in July 1997, the service is funded and managed by the Health Service Executive. The freephone number is 1800 459 459. The Helpline manager is Aileen Dooley.
Item Type
Article
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
New psychoactive substance
Issue Title
Issue 31, Autumn 2009
Date
October 2009
Page Range
pp. 24-25
Publisher
Health Research Board
Volume
Issue 31, Autumn 2009
EndNote
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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