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Long, Jean and Mongan, Deirdre and Connolly, Johnny (2010) Drugnet digest. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 34, Summer 2010, p. 7.

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This new feature of the newsletter, Drugnet digest will contain short summaries of recent research reports and other developments of interest.   

Guide to substance misuse for health professionals
Sinead O’Mahony Carey, drug education officer with HSE South, compiled a pocket-sized reference manual, A guide to substance misuse for medical professionals.1 The first section of the guide presents drugs with potential for misuse by category and by type. The major categories of drugs covered include hallucinogens, opiates, stimulants and volatile inhalants. Details of individual drugs are presented under each category, described by street name(s), expected effects, negative or side effects, appearance, method(s) of use, dependency potential, withdrawal symptoms, overdose risk and effects of long-term use. The second section contains information on the signs of drug use. The third section presents an overview of the reasons people use drugs, while section four presents the dangers of drug use. The fifth section presents a summary of Irish law and drug use, and the final section covers the jargon related to drug use. This book is a useful guide for health professionals, counsellors, key workers and social workers who work with drug users.
White Paper on crime – discussion document
The Department of Justice and Law Reform has launched the second discussion document as part of the consultation process to develop a White Paper on crime. The White Paper, due to be completed in 2011, provides a high-level statement of government policy, its rationale and the strategies to give effect to that policy. The process of consultation involves the publication of thematic discussion documents. The first discussion document, published in July 2009, was entitled Crime prevention and community safety and invited submissions on a range of subjects such as: reducing opportunities for crime; developing locally based partnerships; preventing first-time criminality among those most at risk, and reducing re-offending. The process of consultation also involves regional seminars and meetings with key stakeholders. The second discussion document, Criminal sanctions, considers the purpose of sanctions, non-custodial sanctions, imprisonment, and sentencing policy and practice, and was published in February 2010. Written submissions are requested before the end of May 2010. 
First national report from sexual assault treatment units
There are currently six sexual assault treatment units (SATUs) in Ireland, located at the Rotunda Hospital (Dublin), South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital (Cork), Waterford Regional Hospital, Midlands Hospital (Mullingar), Letterkenny General Hospital and Galway (Ballybrit). Clinical reports from each of these units are combined in the first annual SATU report, for 2009.2 
There were 529 attendances at the six units in 2009; 95% were female and the mean age was 24 years. Half (51%) of all patients who attended had consumed at least four units of alcohol in the 12 hours prior to the incident reported, 8% disclosed that they had taken illegal drugs and 3% were concerned that drugs had been used to facilitate sexual assault. Irish research has shown that alcohol consumption, especially drinking to intoxication, is a feature in a high proportion of rape and sexual abuse cases in Ireland,3,4 and this report further corroborates those findings.
Prison-based needle exchange
A report assessing the need for prison-based needle exchange in Ireland5 details the evolution of drug use, particularly injecting drug use, in Irish prisons in the years prior to 2001. It describes the association between injecting drug use and the spread of blood-borne viral infections among Irish prisoners, based on studies in 1999 and 2000. The authors acknowledge the development of harm reduction and drug treatment services in Irish prisons since 2001. However, they note that there are no recent Irish data on the prevalence of blood-borne viral infections and drug use among prisoners.
The authors describe the experience of prison needle exchange in six countries, where findings indicate that such programmes:
  • reduced risk behaviours (such as sharing needles and syringes) and transmission of infection (such as hepatitis C and HIV);
  • did not increase drug consumption or injecting drug use;
  • did not endanger staff or compromise prison safety, and did, in fact, make prisons a safer place to live and work;
  • had other positive outcomes for the prisoners’ health;
  • operated as part of a comprehensive harm reduction programme.  
 The authors note that the introduction of needle exchange would not present any ethical, legal or clinical issues which could not be addressed by the prison service.  
In summary, prison needle exchange does work in other jurisdictions, but the need for this intervention requires up-to-date evidence. The NACD and the Irish Prison Service will commission a study to examine the prevalence of drug use, injecting drug use and drug-related blood-borne viral infections among prisoners in Ireland.
2. Eogan M (2010) First national sexual assault treatment unit (SATU) annual clinical report. Dublin: Health Service Executive.
3. Hanly C, Healy D and Scriver S (2009) Rape and justice in Ireland: a national study of survivor, prosecutor and court responses to rape. Dublin: The Liffey Press.
4. McGee H, Garavan R, de Barra M, Byrne J and Conroy R (2002) The SAVI report: sexual abuse and violence in Ireland. Dublin: The Liffey Press.
5. Forde C, Long J and Davey A (2009) An assessment of prison needle-exchange for Ireland. Unpublished report submitted to the Oversight Forum on Drugs.
Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Issue Title
Issue 34, Summer 2010
Page Range
p. 7
Health Research Board
Issue 34, Summer 2010
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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