Heroin addicts 'use other drugs'
Three quarters of Dublin's heroin addicts are also hooked on other drugs, a study has found.
Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI) revealed half of the users at its needle exchange programme injected heroin six or more times in one week. The addiction and homeless charity also found 75% of users took other drugs including the prescribed detox substitute methadone, benzodiazepine tranquilisers, cannabis, alcohol, steroids and cocaine.
Tony Geoghegan, MQI chief executive, said most detoxification centres are aimed at people who use only a single substance such as heroin.
"The report confirms people are still using heroin, but polydrug use is now the dominant trend," he said. "This means detox services in Ireland have to match the need. In Ireland there are currently no detox options for this group."
There are an estimated 20,000 heroin addicts in Ireland, with 10,000 men and women on a methadone programme and just 38 detox beds nationwide for treatment.
The study of 388 drug users who use the charity's needle exchange programme in Dublin revealed more than 14% of heroin addicts inject the drug in public areas across the capital. Four-fifths had been tested for HIV and Hepatitis C, with 8.33% testing positive for HIV and 45% having Hep C.
But of the 125 with Hep C, only 18 were in treatment, and more than half of those who were HIV negative had not been tested within the past year. Elsewhere approximately 27% reported sharing injecting equipment and paraphernalia in the past month including water, tourniquets, cookers, syringes, filters and needles.
Mr Geoghegan said the study, to be launched by junior health minister Alex White, shows a critical need for testing for Hep C and other blood borne viruses to improve individual health and reduce the spread of disease.
"MQI's current needle and syringe programmes are about harm reduction," he added. "Service provision reduces levels of anti-social behaviour, reduces the harm of drug use and can be a first point of contact for detox and rehabilitation options."
The study also found men were six times more likely to be an addict than women, a higher rate than in most other European and Irish studies - and the average age was 34 for men and 32 for women. The majority of participants were Irish (88%), but the sample included 19 different nationalities, and less than a third were homeless.