Home > Joint Committee on Health and Children - National Drugs Strategy: Minister of State at the Department of Health.

[Oireachtas] Joint Committee on Health and Children - National Drugs Strategy: Minister of State at the Department of Health. (09 Jun 2015)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/joint_...

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin):  I welcome the invitation to address members of the Joint Committee on Health and Children and the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality on the national drugs strategy. I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to take on a ministerial role in this area. I see it as a vital role that needs the attention of a dedicated Minister. From my work as a teacher and principal in Dublin’s north inner city, I am aware of the devastating consequences of drug abuse and the damage it causes in communities. I am deeply committed to doing all I can in my role, as Minister of State, to ensure that drug users are given the support they need to overcome addiction and once again live fulfilling lives.   Since taking up my new role, I have met many people who share my concern about the extent of the drug problem in Ireland. A lot of people have said that they would like to see a change of attitudes to addiction and a more compassionate health oriented approach to those who are dependent on drugs. Too often those afflicted by addiction suffer from stigma and a lack of public understanding and education which can hold back their recovery. It is against this background that I am delighted that the justice committee is inviting public submissions on its drug policy review, with particular reference to the question of whether an alternative approach to the possession of small quantities of illicit drugs for personal use should be considered. I very much welcome a discussion on this important issue.   

The national drugs strategy aims to tackle the harm caused to individuals and society by the misuse of drugs through a concerted focus on supply reduction, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and research. The strategy encourages inter-agency working in a difficult cross-cutting policy and service area.   The oversight forum on drugs, which I chair, monitors the progress in implementing the strategy. As part of the work of developing a new strategy to cover the period from 2017 onwards, I intend to carry out a comprehensive assessment of the extent to which the current strategy has provided an effective policy response to the drugs problem. I will speak in more detail later about my plans in this area.   In order to have an informed evidence-based approach to drug policies, we need accurate information on the nature and extent of drug use. The national drugs prevalence survey, which is carried out by the national advisory committee on drugs and alcohol, is a key source of such information. Fieldwork for the fourth wave of the survey in 2014-2015 is at an advanced stage. I look forward to the first results bulletin becoming available later this year. This will give the key findings on drug use and will enable comparisons with the three previous surveys undertaken in 2010-2011, 2006-2007 and 2002-2003....

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