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Home > Inaugural Irish conference for nurses in addiction services.

Kelly, Peter (2016) Inaugural Irish conference for nurses in addiction services. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 59, Autumn 2016 , p. 20.

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The Ireland Chapter of the International Nurses Society on Addictions (IntNSA)1 held its inaugural conference in Dublin City University on 10 June 2016. The conference theme was ‘Hot topics in addiction’, where Irish and international speakers addressed several current issues, including the service user experience, chemsex, the role of the nurse in substance misuse, nurse prescribing, medically supervised injecting, and Irish and international policy developments. The conference was attended by the current president of IntNSA in the US, Dana-Murphy Parker, an Assistant Professor of Nursing at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Dr Carmel Clancy, Chair of the IntNSA International Task Force and Dr Chris Loth, President of the IntNSA Netherlands chapter who was accompanied by two Netherlands IntNSA board members.3


Nurses play an increasingly important role in the treatment and prevention of addictive disorders across a broad range of healthcare settings. Nursing education covers a range of academic and practical subject areas, including holistic, physical and mental healthcare, psychosocial interventions, self-awareness, ethics and pharmacology. The undergraduate nursing degree prepares nurses for practice in child health, midwifery, mental health and intellectual disability as well as general practice. Many of the skills gained before undertaking specialist postgraduate training are highly relevant in terms of meeting client needs across the spectrum of addiction treatment. Nurse’s professional registration also provides enhanced statutory protection for both employers and service users.


However, the diverse nature of work in the addictions field in Ireland and the lack of opportunity for specialisation outside of Dublin have meant there is some ambiguity around the role of nurses in this field and its service value. In the workplace many nurses find themselves isolated from professional support in areas where employers may be unfamiliar with their role. In 2015, nurses working in this area formed the Ireland Chapter of IntNSA, to become a part of a professional organisation founded in 1975 in the United States for nurses committed to the prevention, treatment and management of addictive disorders. These include alcohol and other drug dependencies, nicotine dependencies, eating disorders, dual diagnosis, multiple diagnosis, and process addictions, such as gambling. IntNSA’s mission is to advance excellence in nursing care for the prevention and treatment of addictions for diverse populations across all practice settings through advocacy, collaboration, education, research and policy development.


IntNSA is engaged in a wide range of activities internationally, which has included hosting a symposium at the International Society of Addiction Medicine (ISAM) conference in Dundee in 2015. The Ireland Chapter was the first chapter established outside the United States and now has over 50 Irish members. It aims principally to provide a professional support network for nurses and other disciplines working in the addictions field and across other areas of healthcare in Ireland. The Ireland Chapter of IntNSA also wants addiction nursing to be recognised as a discipline within nursing. Membership is open to nurses registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) and student nurses, while associate membership is open to other disciplines and service users.2 Service users and nurses from addiction treatment and academic disciplines are represented on the board. The board members are Ann McGuire, Deirdre Carmody, Deirdre Lynne, Dr Gerry Moore, John Flanagan, Niall O’Connell and Peter Kelly. Opportunities for international collaboration are increasing, as there are now IntNSA chapters in The Netherlands and in Brazil, with a UK chapter currently being established.


One of the main objectives of the Dublin conference, which had a capacity attendance, was to raise awareness of the value that nurses can bring right across the spectrum of treatment services and to increase dialogue with service users and other practitioners and academics in other disciplines. A panel discussion, chaired by Dr Siobhán O’Halloran, Chief Nursing Officer at the Department of Health, generated interesting discussion around the future of addiction treatment in Ireland.


In November 2015, representatives of the Ireland Chapter of IntNSA met with the then Minister for the National Drugs Strategy, Aodhán Ó Ríordán, and was the first nursing group to formally contribute to an Irish national drugs strategy via attendance at the Continuum of Care Focus Group. The focus for 2016/17 will be decided at our forthcoming AGM and we will explore opportunities to positively influence the nursing contribution to Irish addiction services. 



1 Further details on IntNSA’s mission, vision and values are available online at

2 Information on membership of the Ireland Chapter of IntNSA and conference speakers is available online at

3. Information on other speakers is available at

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
General / Comprehensive, Treatment method, Harm reduction
Issue Title
Issue 59, Autumn 2016
October 2016
Page Range
p. 20
Health Research Board
Issue 59, Autumn 2016

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