Gaps in drug treatment as abuse rates on rise
A lack of vital drug treatment services are leaving some areas of the country at risk of being abuse 'blackspots'.
Areas lacking facilities include Cavan, Louth and Meath, it emerged yesterday.
There is also a problem with heroin addiction in Kildare and a need for specialist services.
It means addicts who want treatment can face waiting lists or long journeys.
The gaps in service were revealed in the Government's new drug and alcohol use strategy 2017-2025 launched yesterday.
However, the Department of Health strategy fails to quantify the extent of the waiting lists.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the rate of drug abuse was on the rise. There are around 18,988 opiate users, including heroin addicts, in the country. The highest prevalence is in Dublin. Use of cannabis is higher than for any other drug.
A total of 6.5pc of people abused cannabis in the last year, with younger people in particular using the drug. It is the most commonly used drug among 15-16 year olds.
The strategy proposes setting up a working group that would examine if non-criminal sanctions be imposed on people found with a small quantity of drugs for personal use.
The Taoiseach, Health Minister Simon Harris and Drugs Minister Catherine Byrne said young people, in particular, who are convicted of this kind of drug possession were finding it was hampering their career and affecting their freedom to travel.
Meanwhile, the HSE will launch a tender in the autumn to outsource the setting up of the country's first injecting centre, which will be supervised and aimed at long-term addicts who might otherwise shoot up in the street or alleyways. They will be provided with clean needles and sanitised conditions.