Addiction in rural Kerry laid bare for Minister
The nature and pain of addiction in rural Kerry as it is today was laid bare for the minister in charge of drafting the State's national drugs strategy when she spoke at length with people struggling with addiction on a visit to Talbot Grove in Castleisland recently.
While alcohol remains the most abused substance in Kerry, many are also abusing a range of other substances on top of it - from cannabis and cocaine to prescription tranquillizers, either legally or illegally obtained.
Counsellors know this increasing trend as 'polydrug' use, which they say exacts an even harder toll on users' mental health than single-substance abuse and leads to a more difficult treatment process.
Minister of State for Communities and National Drugs Strategy Catherine Byrne was left in no doubt as to the stark reality of polydrug use in Kerry in 2017 in a series of meetings with addicts at Talbot Grove, the addiction centre set up in 1993 in Castleisland, recently.
Her visit coincided with the facility receiving a prestigious ISO award for its efficient management system; and with its nomination as a Ring of Kerry Cycle charity for the second year running.
And it comes as Talbot Grove prepares for a major expansion on the grounds to provide more space to allow it better deliver the varied services it operates.
"We were delighted with the Minister's visit and she seemed to be very impressed with the work we're doing here," Con Cremin said.
"Minister Byrne is vastly experienced in the field through her years of work in her Dublin constituency, but we were keen that her visit here would give her a better perspective on the issue of substance addiction and treatment in rural Ireland and Kerry."
That was certainly achieved as she heard hard-hitting testimony direct from those undergoing treatment at the centre; where 12 residential spaces exist combined with a plethora of other services used by up to 100 individuals in any given week.
"While alcohol is still the most prevalent substance of concern, one thing that is different today from ten years ago are the numbers who are also abusing other drugs at the same time. We're seeing a very complex mix of substances today, perhaps as a result of the increased availability and mobility in society today," Mr Cremin added.
"Even within the last six months, cocaine is back as a major problem. We dealt with a lot of it during the Celtic Tiger but as purse strings tightened in the recession we saw less of it. That's all changed again."
A commitment given by the Minister on her visit to support the Grove in accessing capital funding towards its development plans is - along with the Ring of Kerry Cycle - additional security for the charity.
"We're delighted with the response of the public and would only love for more to cycle for us," Mr Cremin said.