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Mongan, Deirdre and Nelson, Mairea (2012) National Drugs Conference of Ireland 2011. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 40, Winter 2011, pp. 8-9.

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 The second National Drugs Conference of Ireland took place at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Dublin 8 on 3–4 November 2011.  The theme of the conference was ‘Drug Interventions: what works?’ The packed, two-day programme brought together a wide range of people from the community/voluntary sector as well as from government organisations to share knowledge, expertise and good practice in drug policy and drug service provision in Ireland. Some 275 delegates were in attendance. 

Opening the conference, Minister of State Róisín Shortall stressed that all drug interventions should have a strong evidence base. She warned that resources would remain tight and that ‘we must ensure the limited public funding that is available is used in the most effective and optimum way’. She said that agencies should work together and play a part in implementing the National Substance Misuse Strategy.
Ms Shortall said the response to drug addiction needed to be client-centred and should ultimately enable service users to address their health, social, housing and employment needs. She pointed to family involvement as an important tool in fighting addiction, saying it increased the likelihood of successful outcomes and decreased the chances of relapse. Ms Shortall stated that she would like to see clients move more quickly through methadone programmes and into recovery. She said she was looking for information from the HSE on the length of time people were in methadone treatment and that she wanted more GPs involved in treatment. She also stated that she was pleased to have signed an order classifying 60 psychoactive substances sold in head shops as controlled substances.
Referring to alcohol, the minister said that alcohol has become ‘dirt cheap’ and that, in many cases, young people were not able to handle the amount of alcohol they could now afford. She spoke of the need to reduce alcohol consumption and said that the Governement will examine recommendations on pricing and availability including minimum pricing.
Over the two days there were 19 Irish and international plenary speakers, as well as 26 speakers across parallel sessions. This article can give only a brief overview of the proceedings. 
Various organisations and researchers took the opportunity of launching/presenting their recent work at the conference. Siobhan Cafferty from Pavee Point launched Good practice guidelines for drug and alcohol services for Travellers, which can be accessed athttps://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/16232/ . Marie Claire van Hout and Tim Bingham launched Holding pattern: an exploratory study of the lived experiences of those on methadone maintenance in Dublin North East,which can be accessed at  https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/16231/
Robert O’Driscoll and Miriam Keogh presented their research Inter-agency practice and outcomes for teenagers with addiction and social services. Gary Broderick launched Reduce the use 2, a manual for professionals working with polydrug users developed by the SAOL Project and available athttps://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/16230/   . Aoife Dermody launched two protocols on behalf of Progression Routes Initiative – Community detoxification protocols: benzodiazepines and Community detoxification protocols: methadone. Both of these reports are available at https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/26889/ & https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/26888/
Dr Joao Goulao spoke about the impact of drug policies in Portugal, in particular, the introduction of policy in 2001 that led to the decriminalisation of drug use.  Under this policy, people who are caught in possession of drugs for personal use are dealt with by a commission comprising a legal expert, a health professional and a social worker. He stated that decriminalisation has not had a negative impact and that drug addicts are now seen as sick people with treatment needs rather than delinquents. 
Dr Paolo Deluca introduced the delegates to the Recreational Drugs European Network (ReDNet) project, a multi-site implementation project with the aim of improving the level of information available to young people (aged 16–24) and professionals on the effects of new recreational drugs and the potential health risks associated with their use. On a similar topic, Ann Campbell described her research findings on adolescents’ experiences of psychoactive substances in Ireland. 
RADE (recovery through art, drama and education) participants gave the delegates an enjoyable ten minutes as they performed their own drama, Get stoned, which challenged the stereotypical views of drug users, law enforcement, the community and politicians regarding drug use. Martin Woods spoke about the link between drug killing in Mexico, money laundering in London and whistle blowing. He was followed by Johnny Connolly, who described drug markets in Ireland. 
Tom McLellan spoke of the scope of substance use in the US, where there are 13,200 treatment programs. He queried the current approach to treatment, saying that it needs to become more patient-centred and more integrated into healthcare. Damon Barrett described drug policy from a human rights perspective and said that more work needs to be done in this area. Dr Jenny Scott gave an overview of the pharmacist’s role within a community pharmacy needle exchange in the UK, after which Denis O’Driscoll gave the delegates an update on a similar scheme in Ireland. He said that 42 pharmacies will be involved in the scheme by the end of 2011, with a further 30 becoming involved in 2012. Marion Rackard outlined the National Rehabilitation Framework Training programme, which will involve 10 pilot sites, five protocols to establish national standards and three key modules.
Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Issue Title
Issue 40, Winter 2011
January 2012
Page Range
pp. 8-9
Health Research Board
Issue 40, Winter 2011
Accession Number
HRB (Electronic Only)

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