Pubdate: Tue, 12 Aug 2008
Source: Irish Times, The (Ireland)
Copyright: 2008 The Irish Times
Author: Ronan McGreevya
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Methadone)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


LEADING drugs counsellor has warned that cutbacks in Government
funding for drug services will be self-defeating and end up costing
the State more in the long term.

Shay Pegley, general manager of Dublin-based Addiction Training
Institute (ATI) Training and Education, said many drug treatment
services were being asked to trim 2 per cent from their budgets
because of cutbacks.

He said that such cutbacks, while not affecting present services,
compromise the ability of drug rehabilitation facilities to plan for
the future. Mr Pegley said there should be at least a 5 per cent
increase in funding for the National Drugs Strategy in the next
budget. The budget for this year is =8064 million, an increase of =8012.5
million on 2007.

Figures seen recently by this newspaper showed that the number of
heroin addicts in treatment here is about to pass 10,000 for the first
time, following large increases in the numbers presenting for
treatment. Drug campaigners say even more treatment places are needed,
as the Health Service Executive has admitted that there are not enough
hospital beds for detoxifying addicts.

Mr Pegley said any cutbacks in the figure for next year would be
shortsighted, and end up costing the State more in the long run.
Following the seizure of =801 million worth of the drug in west Dublin,
he explained that although significant efforts have been made, the
problems of heroin addiction are ongoing with no end in sight.

"The crux of the matter is that drugs remain a social problem, as much
as they are a crime problem. They are best dealt with at both the
macro-environment and micro-environment level by social measures.

"The emphasis should always be on rehabilitation and treatment. In the
past, Ireland has used the criminal justice system as a remedial
measure, but the cost of keeping an addict in jail is far in excess of
what it costs in treatment."

Mr Pegley encouraged the Government to continue supporting the
preventative and rehabilitation services which are in place - despite
the worsening economic climate.

"Continued resources targeted at limiting the supply of heroin and
adequate support and rehabilitation services for addicts are
essential. Any reduction in services would result in a worsening of
the serious problems associated with heroin addiction," he said.

Mr Pegley said there also needed to be more resources to tackle heroin
addiction outside Dublin, and especially in the Midlands, where there
is a serious heroin problem.

He said the level of heroin addiction outside Dublin was
under-reported because most addicts report to Dublin for treatment.

"We have noticed the problem increasing in the past five to seven
years outside Dublin. People will not report to services in these
areas because the substitute therapy, methadone, is not available so
the problem is migrating to Dublin."
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MAP posted-by: Steve Heath