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Home > A capture-recapture study to estimate the prevalence of problem-opiate use in Ireland (2015 – 2019).

A capture-recapture study to estimate the prevalence of problem-opiate use in Ireland (2015 – 2019).


A research project by University College Cork, commissioned by the Health Research Board

Background: Opiate use is a major problem in Ireland. Therefore, it is important for government and support agencies to know how many people are impacted by the negative effects of opiates on a regular basis. The most recent figures from 2014 estimate that there are between 18,720 – 21,454 problematic opiate users in Ireland.

The Health Research Board (HRB) has commissioned a team from the School of Public Health in University College Cork (UCC) to estimate problematic opiate use in Ireland between 2015 to 2019. This estimate will be based on data from methadone prescribers and the Irish Probation Service. This research will inform services’ response to this problem and support policy development.

Aims: The overall aim of this project is to provide an up-to-date estimate of the prevalence of problematic opiate use in Ireland from 2015 – 2019.

Methods: We will be using a capture-recapture method in combination with the multiple indicator method to provide national and regional level estimates for the prevalence of problematic opiate use. The sources are the National Drug Treatment Centre and the Irish Probation Service. Data from the HRB’s National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS) will be used for the multiple indicator method and to validate estimates from the capture recapture method. We will also examine data from the HRB’s National Drug-Related Deaths Index (NDRDI).

Personal data such as name, date of birth, gender, address and details about drug use will be collected from various agencies (listed above). Once the data are received and checked they will be fully anonymised and not shared with any third parties.

Outcomes: Estimates on the prevalence of problematic opiate users will be presented as a national estimate and a rate per 1,000 population with 95% confidence intervals for each year between 2015 - 2019. Estimates will be further stratified according to: Age group, Gender, Within Dublin/Outside Dublin and Health Regions.

Ethical Approval, Consent Declaration and Data Protection: Due consideration has been given to the requirement for informed consent from those whose data are included in this study. Complete inclusion of those appearing in the data sources listed above is a crucial requirement for the success of this project. Every effort will be made to protect an individual’s personal information and subject identifiers will be destroyed as soon as anonymisation can occur. This research has received ethical approval from the Clinical Research Ethics Committee of the Cork Teaching Hospitals and a consent declaration approved by the Health Research Consent Declaration Committee (HRCDC). This approval allows us to conduct this research without individual consent from study subjects.

For further information on personal data processing rights, please contact UCC’s Data Protection Officer by email at gdpr@ucc.ie.

Contact: To learn more about this study please contact the Research Support Officer for this project - Dr Michael Hanrahan, michael.hanrahan@ucc.ie

Funding: This project is funded by the Health Research Board.

Supporting Organisations

  • University College Cork
  • Health Research Board
  • HSE National Drug Treatment Centre
  • Irish Probation Service

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