Home > Community drug problems – community responses.

Doolan, Daithi (2010) Community drug problems – community responses. In: Community drugs problem: defining the problem - defending the responses conference, 15 October 2010, Dublin.

In his address Daithi set out the rationale for the conference, he introduced the concept of a community drugs problem and spoke about how communities have responded to these problems with imagination and resilience.

What is a Community Drugs Problem?
Drug use is first and foremost a problem for the individual drug user. A community drug problem emerges when a) a significant number of problem drug users are concentrated in a particular area and b) the community does not have adequate resources to deal with the problem. There are a number of key indicators of a community drug problem:

• Availability & range of drug use (poly drug use) including alcohol
• Visibility
• Familiarity/normality
• Social nuisance/community spaces
• Community safety
• Community pride/image/social networks
• Lack of resources to respond

The problems of individual addiction is compounded in communities by public drug dealing, by the ease in which drugs are available, by the normalisation of drug use, by a lack of access to services, by intimidation on a nerve shattering level and by inadequate public services. Play grounds, parks and recreational areas are taken over by the drugs trade. Parks, streets and services become no go areas. High levels of unemployment, lower levels of secondary school completion & a high concentration of social housing can leave communities inadequately resourced to deal with these problems. All these brush strokes paint a picture of a community drug problem that is very familiar to the communities we work with.

What are the solutions?
The introduction of the Local Drug Task Force Handbook penned by Minister Chris Flood states that ..."the LDTF's were set up to ensure a fully integrated response to the drug problem in the worst hit areas which takes account of specific needs of those areas. Of equal importance, the Task Force process allows local communities - the people most affected by the problem - to work with the State Agencies and voluntary organisations in designing and delivering that response."

The responses we develop to tackle community drugs problems must be holistic, integrated and partnership based. We must not lose sight of the vision that saw the establishment of LDTF's. The responses need to be local, they need to be community based, they need to involve the people most affected by the problem in finding solutions that work for their communities, and they need to be adequately resourced.

The responses developed over the last 15 years are some of the most imaginative and unique even on a global level. Following the Rabbitte Report an innovative new way of doing business was piloted, a Minister was appointed to take responsibility for the National Drug Strategy, Local Drug Task Forces were set up in areas of most need, a National Drugs Strategy Team was set up, and eventually Regional Drug Task Forces were established. The core of all these approaches was partnership. This partnership approach is now under attack and by extension the community response to the drug crisis is under attack. We must not let this happen.

We must agree the responses are worth defending. Then we must agree we will defend them. Once we have agreed on that then we must support each other in defending them. We need to work together to support each other during the difficult times. We need to build solidarity between each other, across projects, across communities and across the island. We need the Minster with responsibility for the Drug Strategy to defend the responses we have worked so hard to put in place. Today's conference will allow all of us an opportunity to learn from each other and to provide the necessary support to not only defend the response to a community drug problem to actually build on these responses.

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