Heartland: Drugs in rural Ireland, are we in the middle of an epidemic?


The news feeds have been flooded as of late with stories of drugs busts galore, does this mean we are in the middle of a drugs epidemic?

Heartland: Drugs in rural Ireland, are we in the middle of an epidemic?

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  • 2 years ago

The news feeds have been flooded as of late with stories of drugs busts galore, does this mean we are in the middle of a drugs epidemic?

The news feeds have been flooded as of late with stories of drugs busts galore, does this mean we are in the middle of a drugs epidemic?

Not too many days go by without one seeing a news story involving the retrieval of drugs of some sort by An Garda Síochána, or indeed a story of someone prosecuted for crimes relating to drugs. But does this mean that we may now be in the middle of a drugs epidemic in the country? We decided to investigate the matter.

According to figures from the Central Statistics office, drug use has risen dramatically in the past 10 years. From 2006 to 2016 drug user numbers have increased from 14,219 up to 16,119. There were a total of 15,119 drugs related offences last year in Ireland, of which 75% were related to use/possession and the remaining 25% for supply. One must also mention 2008, where drug use was at an all time high with over 23,000 admitting to using drugs. From 2015 to 2016 drug use in Ireland has in fact increased by a whopping 6.8%. Surely this signifies a big problem around the country?

Out of all HIV diagnoses in the country, 50% have resulted from injecting drugs. HIV diagnoses have also risen by 1029 people from 2015, which is alarming to say the least. This definitely points to a big problem unfolding around the country. Last year it was reported that a total of 214 people died from drug related deaths. This compares to the 86 deaths recorded in 2013 and points to a staggering increase. The highest number of drug induced deaths in 2015 were recorded in the 35-39 age group, while Ireland scored higher than the EU averages in all age categories between 20 and 44 years old.

Of all drug users aged between 15 - 34, according to emcoda, 13.8% admit to using cannabis on regular occasions. While 4.4% admit to MDMA use, 2.9% to cocaine use and 0.6% to amphetamine use. See table below to see different age groups and drug use percentages.

Cannabis: 15-24 - 16.2%, 25-34 - 11.9%, 35-44 - 4.5%, 45-54 - 2.3%, 55-84 - 1.7%.

MDMA: 15-24 - 6.7%, 25-34 - 2.6%,35-44 - 0.7%, 45-54 - 0.2%, 55-84 - 0%

Cocaine: 15-24 - 3.2%, 25-34 - 2.6%, 35-44 - 0.8%, 45-54 - 0.6%, 55-84 0%

Amphetamines: 15-24 - 0.5%, 25-35 - 0.6%, 35-44- 0.1%, 45-54 - 0%, 55-84 - 0%.


The above data points to a huge problem, especially amongst our younger population. A recent survey was also completed by emcoda, who found that an increased number of younger people have begun using drugs. In a separate survey of children between 15 and 16 in school, the results most definitely mean an epidemic is upcoming if not here already.

A number of 15-16 year old students were surveyed and a huge 19% of all surveyed have admitted to using Cannabis. 8% admitted to using illicit drugs, which is higher than the EU average. While a further 10% admitted to inhalant use, and a further 7% to trying out new psychoactive drugs.

These figures are absolutely astounding, have the youth no other alternatives but to turn to drugs? Is there anything being done by the Government to tackle the issue?

The National Drug Strategy and coordination was launched back in 2009, but if the figures are anything to go by whatever strategy is in place is obviously not having any positive affect what so ever. Are the lives of the 214 troubled souls who lost their lives last year not worth more? Are they not worth the effort?

In total there were a total of 9,917 treatment entrants into centres in Ireland. 28% of which were for Cannabis consumption, 11% for cocaine use, 41% for heroin use, 1% for amphetamines and 19% for other drug types. But are men the real culprits? And why more men than women? Up to 80% of the people getting treatment for Cannabis use were men, while 70% of people receiving treatment for heroin were also men. 61% of entrants for amphetamines were men, and 81% of cocaine related entrants were also men.

This signals a huge problem amongst the male population with regards drug use. This all goes back to the taboo subject that is mental health. People are turning to drugs to help them through bad mental periods in their lives, as they feel they have nowhere else to turn. A lot of people are left angry and frustrated at long waits to receive any sort of mental health from professionals.

Could more not be done to help these people before they find themselves in such a position where drugs is the only option? Could be not be providing more engaging, entertaining activities for our youth to keep them off the streets and away from drugs? Why are people not educated properly from a young age about the dangers of drugs?

Something needs to be done, and fast! There are too many young people tragically losing their lives because of a one time lack of judgement, or because they feel they have no other alternative. Usually people turn to drugs when they feel lost or alone, could we not all come together and work to help these people find themselves before they become just another statistic?

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