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Cork's heroin problem is 'an on-going battle'

There has been a surge in the number of heroin addicts over the past decade.

Image: heroin via Shutterstock

DEMAND FOR A Minister for Drugs to address substance-related issues across the country is growing, with a spotlight being shone on the rising number of addicts in Cork.

Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien said there is now an estimated 500 heroin addicts in Cork, compared to 20 ten years ago.

It is believed that this has led to a spike in muggings and robberies.

“The present Government is the first in 21 years without a Minister for Drugs. We have seen a consistent rise in the sale and use of drugs. 1 person a day is overdosing in Ireland a day,” O’Brien said in a statement.

“The Tánaiste says that the Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has taken a ‘personal, dedicated interest’ in the matter. I would fear that Minister Varadkar would be too busy trying to alleviate the beds crisis currently facing the country to divide his attention with another matter of national importance.”

Tánaiste Joan Burton responded by saying the Government has taken a range of measures to tackle the issue of drug abuse across the country. Her Department has ring-fenced 1,000 places in community employment schemes to ensure people in rehabilitation have access to education and job opportunities.

“An Garda Síochána has targeted intelligence-led operations that have led, as Members are aware, to significant seizures of illicit drugs. For instance, drugs with a value of €41 million were seized in the first half of 2014, which was much higher than the figure for the same period in 2013,” the Tánaiste said.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs has been spending approximately €51 million on an annual basis on schemes involving young people that help in deterrence and avoiding becoming involved in drugs and substance use. As for improvements in the availability of and access to treatment, at the end of September 2014, 97% of clients over 18 years had access to treatment within one calendar month of assessment.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, one Cork councillor described the problem as ‘serious, but not out of control’ in city, but said consistent action is needed.

Mick Nugent said there is a lot of work being done to try to address the issue, with groups such as the HSE, gardaí, and voluntary organisations working together.

“It’s a problem that’s never going to be 100% eradicated,” the Sinn Féin councillor said.

I don’t think it’s out of control, but it’s something that we can’t be complacent about. It’s an on-going battle.

Nugent said that enough services are available in the city, and any agencies ‘not coming up to the mark’ would be called out on it.

Read: Skunk is becoming more and more of a problem in Ireland – it is not ‘simply cannabis’ >

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