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Millar, Sean (2020) Blanchardstown Drug and Alcohol Trends Monitoring System. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 73, Spring 2020 , pp. 9-10.

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The Blanchardstown Local Drug and Alcohol Task Force (BLDATF) is one of 14 local drug and alcohol task forces (LDATFs) established in 1997 in response to high levels of drug misuse within Irish communities. BLDATF is responsible for implementing the National Substance Misuse Strategy1 and facilitating a more coordinated response in tackling drug and alcohol use and misuse in Dublin 15. In order to adapt and change services in a thorough and comprehensive manner, the Blanchardstown Drug and Alcohol Trends Monitoring System (DATMS) was established in 2015 to provide a better knowledge of drug-related harms in the area. The specific objective of DATMS is to establish an evidence base for drug use in Dublin 15 and use these data to inform local service provision.

A recent report documents Year 4 of DATMS.2 The Year 1 reporting period began in June 2014; Year 2 began in June 2015; Year 3 relates to 2017; and Year 4 to 2018. The DATMS report employs a mixed-method design comprising primary and secondary data sources. Key findings from the report are discussed below.

Treated drug use

Treated cases aged 18 years and under increased from 51 in Year 1 to 97 in Year 4, with 1% of the Dublin 15 population aged 12–17 years having attended treatment for drug and/or alcohol use. From Year 1 to Year 4, the profile of treated cases has remained similar, with a majority being Irish and male. Cannabis herb was found to be the most commonly used drug among this age group, followed by alcohol, with a majority of cases being polydrug users.

Among subjects aged 18 years and over, there was an increase in the number of treated cases from 292 in 2016 to 348 in 2018. The majority of treated cases were Irish, male, and aged 35–44 years. One-third of cases were in treatment for drugs for the first time and the three main problem drugs reported were alcohol, heroin, and cocaine. Changes in the profile of treated drug users included an increase in the use of cannabis herb, alcohol, powder and crack cocaine, benzodiazepines, and Z-drugs. Year 4 also reported an increase in the use of pregabalin, heroin, and cannabis oil.

Untreated drug use

All four years of DATMS reported similar profiles of untreated drug use by young people and adults, with alcohol, cannabis herb, ecstasy, and cocaine powder being the main drugs used and polydrug use being the norm. Changes in the profile of untreated drug users included an increase in the use of alcohol, cannabis herb and oil, powder and crack cocaine, benzodiazepines, and Z-drugs, and that untreated drug users were getting younger.

Normalisation of drug use

The report notes that there are two recurring themes emerging from the different data sources over four years. First, that drug use in Dublin 15 is a community-wide issue that crosses all socioeconomic boundaries, as treated drug users were from every community in Dublin 15, from the affluent to the deprived. Second, that drug use in Dublin 15 has become normalised. The common perception among study participants was that alcohol and drugs are widely used, risk free, and socially acceptable. Alcohol was found to be the most normalised drug in Dublin 15, followed by cannabis, cocaine powder, benzodiazepines, and Z-drugs. Importantly, all four years of DATMS reported the family context as a risk factor for the normalisation of drug and alcohol use and the development of intergenerational drug and alcohol dependence. The majority of treated drug users who participated in Years 3 and 4 reported having family members who also had issues with drugs and/or alcohol.

Recommendations for service provision

The report notes the gaps in service provision identified by study participants and makes a number of recommendations. These include the following:

Improve drug prevention programmes for people under 18 years of age.

Increase access to skills-based mental health wellbeing programmes for young people and adults.

Provide education and information for family members about the latest drug trends.

Improve treatment programmes for under 18s and young people.

Improve access to naloxone, the antidote to opioid overdoses.

Develop a stabilisation programme for non-opioid polydrug users.

Increase access to mental health services for children, young people, and adults.

Improve access to aftercare services, training, employment, and housing.

1 Department of Health (2012) Steering Group Report on an National Substance Misuse Strategy. Dublin: Department of Health. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/16908

2 Blanchardstown Local Drug and Alcohol Task Force (BLDATF) (2019) Drug and Alcohol Trends Monitoring System (DATMS) 2019: year 4. Dublin: BLDATF. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/31485/

Item Type
Article
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Issue Title
Issue 73, Spring 2020
Date
May 2020
Page Range
pp. 9-10
Publisher
Health Research Board
Volume
Issue 73, Spring 2020
EndNote

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