Pubdate: Fri, 18 Feb 2000
Source: Irish Times (Ireland)
Copyright: 2000 The Irish Times
Contact:  11-15 D'Olier St, Dublin 2, Ireland
Fax: + 353 1 671 9407
Author: Eithne Donnellan


Only a handful of teenage drug-abusers are being treated for their
addiction in the Eastern Health Board area, the region where the drugs
problem is greatest, a conference in Dublin was told yesterday.

While over 4,000 addicts are being treated at 50 centres in the EHB
area at present, only 32 are under the age of 18, and as few as 155
are under the age of 25.

The board's programme manager for health promotion, mental health,
addiction and social development, Mr Martin Gallagher, told delegates
at the two-day national conference on "Young People and Drugs" at
Dublin Castle that the number of young people in treatment was not
representative of young people abusing drugs.

"Anecdotal evidence from our outreach teams, users, and surveys of
school-going children suggest that a significant problem exists in the
region," he said.

He said at-risk young people should be targeted as early as primary
school and said the EHB's health promotion department was developing a
pack for schools in September to assist them in the formulation of
drugs policy.

He also announced elements of the EHB's draft five-year plan for the
development of drugs services. The plan, with a particular focus on
young people, will be amended by a steering group in line with
proposals put forward at the conference.

One initiative is a community mothers scheme to offer the support of
mothers who have already experienced drug addiction among their
children to vulnerable families who are experiencing problems.

Dr Rita Hughes, consultant psychiatrist with the EHB, told delegates
the vast majority of young people started with soft drugs such as
alcohol and cannabis and progressed from there to harder drugs such as

Speaking on drug use in the State outside the EHB area, Mr Willie
Collins, drugs co-ordinator with the Southern Health Board, said
heroin use was not a problem outside the area except in small pockets.
The main drugs abused in Cork and Kerry, apart from alcohol, were
cannabis, LSD and ecstasy, which were widely available, he said.

Opening the conference the Minister of State for Health, Mr Eoin Ryan,
said drug misuse was a complex problem requiring a multidisciplinary
response across a range of agencies and professionals.

"Nobody has a monopoly on wisdom, and this is particularly true in the
area of addressing the drugs issue," he said.
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