Government must wake up to scale of drug use

12 December 2023

Labour justice spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said big changes are needed to break down the stigma and address the trauma associated with drug use.

As the Coolmine Centre service reports more people presenting with cocaine addiction, Deputy Ó Ríordáin said Government cannot continue to ignore the issues at the heart of illegal drug use.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:

“Most of the State’s infrastructure for dealing with drug addiction is focused on opioids. This has been the case since the heroin epidemic of the 1980s. In addition to that serious problem, the situation on the ground has moved on. Cocaine and crack cocaine are prevalent and highly addictive and we know that it is having a massive impact on communities across the country.

“Labour has been to the fore campaigning on a change to drug policy, with the needs of users at the heart of this. As it stands, we have few detoxification and rehabilitation options for people. Government continues to focus on drugs as a criminal issue, a justice issue.

“Drug use should be a health issue and we need to be honest about the extent of drug use so we can implement policies to safeguard people, and to help them if they fall into addiction.

“Fine Gael continue to falsely believe that we can solve the issue of drug use through criminal sanction. Well they’re wrong. It’s a failed policy approach that is destroying communities nationwide.

“As it stands, we have a situation where approximately 6,400 people were charged with possession of drugs for personal use. Treating drugs as a criminal issue is clearly not working.

“A health-led approach means treating people with respect and dignity, and providing them with the support and services they need. Only through taking a community led, health based approach can we offer a real solution to drug addiction that continues to cripple communities nationwide.”

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