Home > Next National Drugs Strategy under development.

Pike, Brigid (2016) Next National Drugs Strategy under development. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 57, Spring 2016, pp. 8-9.

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The Cabinet Committee on Social Policy and Public Service Reform has mandated the Department of Health to develop a new National Drugs Strategy, to follow the current National Drugs Strategy which will expire at the end of 2016.1 Late in 2015 the Minister with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy established a Steering Committee to provide him with guidance and advice in the development of the new Strategy. This Committee met for the first time on 8 December 2015.


Steering committee

The Steering Committee is tasked with considering how the new Strategy should address problem drug use, including the structures through which this could be done, and developing performance indicators to measure the effectiveness of the new Strategy. It will present a draft report to the Oversight Forum on Drugs for discussion and amendment, and then submission to the Minister with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, who will submit the proposed new Strategy to the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy and Public Service Reform for approval. The new Strategy is expected to be finalised by the end of 2016.


The Steering Committee has a comprehensive and wide ranging membership, representing the key government departments and agencies responsible for implementing the Strategy as well as the community and voluntary sectors and the drugs and alcohol task forces. John Carr, a former general secretary of the Irish National Teachers Organisation, is the independent chair of the Steering Committee.


The work of the Steering Committee will be informed by the following inputs, delivered over the first half of 2016 – a report from an international expert review group, an evidence briefing compiled by an independent academic institution, and feedback from focus groups.


International expert review group

During a week-long visit to Ireland in January 2016, a group of three international experts undertook a high-level review of the current National Drugs Strategy, and reported to the Steering Group on their findings and observations. This expert review group included Paul Griffiths, Scientific Director with the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), who will chair the group; Nicola Singleton, also of the EMCDDA; and Professor John Strang of the National Addictions Centre, Kings College, London. The group’s terms of reference included examining the progress and impact of the current National Drugs Strategy in the context of the objectives, key performance indicators and actions set out in the Strategy; identifying deficits in the implementation of the Strategy; summarising success factors or barriers to success; commenting on Ireland’s evolution in tackling the drug problem in the light of international trends; and identifying key learning points arising from the Strategy and highlighting areas to consider for development in the new strategy.


Independent evidence briefing

During the first four months 2016 a two-part evidence briefing, compiled by researchers at Liverpool John Moores University, was presented to the Steering Committee. It comprises (1) a report on the drugs situation in Ireland, including a ten-year trend analysis, and (2) an overview of international evidence on interventions in the following response areas – prevention (universal, selective and indicated), harm reduction, treatment (medical, psychosocial and residential modalities, and social reintegration (rehabilitation and recovery).


Focus groups

To enable engagement with statutory, community and voluntary bodies who have a role in the delivery of the objectives of the Strategy, the Steering Committee will establish four focus groups to consider the following topics:

  • Supply reduction
  • Education and prevention
  • Continuum of care (encompassing treatment, rehabilitation and recovery)
  • Evidence and best practice

Chaired by the Chair of the Steering Committee, these focus groups will meet in the first months of 2016 and give their views on the relevance of the current Strategy in tackling problem drug use in Ireland, identify any gaps presenting and indicate how they believe these gaps might be addressed.

It is envisaged that the new Strategy will take account of national policy frameworks such as the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion 2007–20162 and the Healthy Ireland Framework3 as well as international policies, such as the EU Drugs Strategy 2013–20204 and the associated Action Plan,5 which is supported by Ireland.The Cabinet Committee has stipulated that there should be a fundamental review of all aspects of the current National Drugs Strategy, including the role of the drugs and alcohol task forces. Issues that the Steering Committee has been particularly asked to consider are: 

  • the length of the Strategy, and whether to develop a more concise and focused version, to facilitate clear and concise reporting on progress and implementation;
  • the optimum duration of the Strategy in order to reflect the changing nature of the drugs phenomenon and the need to maintain the momentum necessary to keep pace with changing drug trends;
  • the five pillars and whether new or alternative pillars are needed to ensure that the Strategy is focused on new or emerging issues; and
  • the appropriate balance between the objectives of supply reduction and demand reduction.


(This report is based on information provided by the Drug Policy Unit in the Department of Health in December 2015.)


  1. Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (2009) National Drugs Strategy (interim) 2009–2016. Dublin: Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/12388/
  2. Office for Social Inclusion (2007) National action plan for social inclusion 2007–2016. Dublin: Stationery Office. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/13378/
  3. Department of Health (2013) Healthy Ireland – a framework for improved health and wellbeing 2013–2025. Dublin: Department of Health. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/19628/
  4. Council of the European Union (2012) The EU drugs strategy 2013–2020. Brussels: Council of the European Union. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/19034/
  5. Council of the European Union (2013) EU action plan on drugs (2013–2016). Brussels: Council of the European Union. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/20004/
Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
Issue Title
Issue 57, Spring 2016
May 2016
Page Range
pp. 8-9
Health Research Board
Issue 57, Spring 2016

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