Home > IMO targets addiction and dependency.

Pike, Brigid (2015) IMO targets addiction and dependency. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 55, Autumn 2015, p. 6.

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On 11 June 2015 the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) launched a policy paper on addiction and dependency.1 Speaking at the launch, IMO President, Dr Ray Walley, said: ‘Addiction and dependency are some of the most challenging public health policy issues of recent times and IMO doctors are advocating for sensible and workable measures that should be examined by legislators and policy-makers to loosen the grip that substance abuse and addiction has placed on large tracts of our society.’

Key actions called for by the IMO include:
• the implementation of the National Alcohol Strategy without delay and immediate action to ban sponsorship and promotion of sports by the alcohol industry,
• introduction of a minimum unit pricing for alcohol products, and
• creation of a strategy for the development of treatment and rehabilitation services for alcohol and drug dependency.

The IMO believes that regulatory controls to limit the exposure of young people to gambling should be instigated immediately, including controls that limit the intensity or frequency of gambling service advertisements. Given the prevalence of gambling in Ireland, and the increased access that most young people and adults have to gambling through smartphones and other portable internet enabled devices, effective educational programmes are needed to raise awareness of problem gambling in the Social, Personal, and Health Education (SPHE) curricula. Funding is also needed for research into the extent of problem gambling and its effects on individuals and their families in Ireland.

Treatment and rehabilitation services
The IMO urges the government to create a strategy for the development of treatment and rehabilitation services for alcohol and drug dependency to include:
• establishment of acute alcohol and illicit drugs detoxification centres for those who wish to choose detoxification as part of their recovery;
• development of appropriate acute treatment facilities for those with alcohol and benzodiazepine dependency;
• full implementation of the Farrell Report (2010)2 to allow for the expansion of numbers of patients on the Opioid Treatment Protocol and thus increase access to treatment for heroin dependence throughout the country;
• pursuit of research that will assess the potential benefits and risks of using supervised injection sites as a means of reducing drug-related harm and bringing patients into contact with drug treatment services;
• development of specialist services in dual-diagnosis, comorbid substance dependency and mental health illness, with appropriate pathways of referral in and out of services and standardised protocols for care;
• appropriate training of all physicians in treatment of addiction and dual-diagnosis, both as part of the core curriculum and continuing professional development; and
• provision of state funding for the treatment of gambling addiction.

Reducing the social cost of addiction
• Introduce spent convictions legislation that will allow minor crimes to be removed from an individual’s criminal record, to better enable those convicted of minor possession offences to re-enter the workforce.
• Develop an effective substance abuse and dependence intervention programme, incorporating a referral procedure, for people who have come to the attention of various State authorities, such as An Garda Síochána or officers of the Department of Social Protection.
• Establish a cross-departmental integrated approach to treatment and rehabilitation to ensure the education, housing, and social protection needs of patients and their families are met.
• Provide financial support to local and regional drugs task forces and social services to address child- and family-related drug problems.

Funding prevention and treatment
• Ensure that contributions from the alcohol and gambling industries fund the treatment and rehabilitation of those who have developed clinical dependencies on their products.
• Route proceeds acquired by the Criminal Assets Bureau relating to drug crime to investment in drug treatment programs.

Reducing supply
Finally, the IMO urges the government to restore all resources to state agencies charged with seizing and intercepting drugs shipments, thereby affecting their availability and price in a manner that will reduce consumption. Stiff penalties are also called for to deter the importation and sale of illegal drugs into Ireland. The IMO recommends that mandatory life sentences should be imposed on those found guilty of major drug trafficking crimes.

  1. Irish Medical Organisation (2015) IMO position paper on addiction and dependency. Dublin: Irish Medical Organisation. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/24092/
  2. Farrell M and Barry J (2010) The introduction of the opioid treatment protocol. Dublin: Health Service Executive. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/14458/

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