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Explosion in heroin use sees addicts invade city

THE number of heroin users in the city has increased hugely, bringing hundreds more addicts into the city centre seeking treatment.

Figures from a leading drug treatment clinic show record levels of heroin users across the country.

New figures today from the country's biggest drug treatment charity show that in Dublin alone 642 new drug users sought treatment last year from Merchant's Quay Ireland (MQI).

Homelessness is also rising with a 17pc increase in demand for these services from the group so far this year.

Last year MQI provided services for just under 9,500 drug users and homeless in 11 counties -- an increase of 9pc.

MQI Director Tony Geoghegan says the rise in demand has hit the charity at a time when funding had been cut by up to 10pc in some areas.

Photographs published by the Herald this week showed young drug users sitting on the kerbside on Dublin's main street and lying passed out in a nearby laneway.

The needle exchange programme had 30,000 visits from drug users last year and the number of prisoners availing of the group's addiction services passed the 1,000 mark for the first time with 53pc of jail inmates naming heroin as their primary drug.

In Athlone, up to 250 people came to the drug treatment and harm reduction facility for help during the year. The demand is greater this year on the facility which serves Westmeath, Offaly, Laois and Longford.

MQI provided 45,725 meals to the homeless last year, with 400 people receiving meals every Sunday at the project's facility in Dublin's south inner city.

It also provided 3,216 healthcare interventions last year through its network of GPs, nursing staff, dentists, counsellors and chiropodists.


Mr Geoghegan said that addressing the drugs crisis was about reducing human misery and it should not be reduced to economics.

Nonetheless, the charity had "significantly pared back our costs in relation to areas like administration, research, training and other back office functions, while at the same time agreeing new working arrangements with staff to ensure that we could develop new much needed initiatives for our service users."

He stressed that investing in harm reduction service directly reduced the money needed for healthcare.

Investing in drug substitution had been shown to reduce spending on healthcare, criminal justice and social welfare.

"Most of all, investing in all of these areas reduces the misery associated with drug use for everybody."