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Report highlights reduction in number of young people commencing opiate use [22/12/17]

Minister Byrne welcomes results of study on problem opiate use in Ireland

Minister of State with responsibility for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy, Catherine Byrne, has welcomed the results of a study of opiate use in Ireland for the period 2011- 2014, which indicates that overall prevalence rates of problem opiate use in Ireland remain stable and that fewer young people are starting to use opiates.  

The report presents the results of a study to estimate the number of opiate users in Ireland in 2014, along with trend information for 2011 to 2014.  The report indicates that, in total, there were an estimated 18,988 opiate users in Ireland in 2014.  Estimates for 2011, 2012 and 2013 were compared to the 2014 estimates to provide information on changes in opiate use prevalence over time.  

Minister Byrne said: "I welcome the results of this study which indicate that opiate use is stabilising in Ireland.  In addition, the prevalence figures highlight a definite aging cohort effect, whereby existing opiate users are getting older while fewer young people are initiating into opiate use.  More than half of the opiate users in Ireland are in the older age group of 35 to 64 years - the previous study, in 2006, reported that less than a third were in that age group."  

The Minister continued: "While the results are encouraging, we cannot afford to be complacent.  Ireland remains a country with a relatively large heroin problem.  At the end of 2016, there were over 9,900 people in methadone treatment, and the report estimates the number of opiate users in 2014 was 18,988. This suggests that a considerable number of opiate users are not currently in treatment."
"The vision of our new strategy, Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery, a health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland, is for a healthier and safer Ireland.  The information provided in this report will assist in the implementation of actions contained in the new strategy, which include commitments to improve access to Opiate Substitution Treatment and reduce waiting times.  The detailed information in this study will be invaluable in identifying what services will be needed to meet emerging trends in the coming years."

Professor Catherine Comiskey, former Chairperson of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol who commissioned the research concurred with the Ministers statements and said, ‘ageing and opiate use is now a European wide concern alongside the intergenerational use of substances across families. It is important to remember that many seeking or currently in treatment are parents or grandparents and have additional health and social care needs’.

Minister Byrne concluded "I would like to acknowledge the work of Dr. Gordon Hay and his team in producing this report.  I would also like to thank Professor Catherine Comiskey for the key role she has played as Chairperson of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol (NACDA) over the past number of years.  In addition, the members of the Committee under Prof Comiskey's leadership have demonstrated dedication and commitment to furthering our collective knowledge of issues associated with drugs and alcohol use and strengthening the evidence-base for policy making in Ireland. " 


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