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Dublin: 17 °C Wednesday 5 August, 2020

Supervised 'injecting centres' could help drug addicts - report

Merchants Quay Ireland has called for new approaches to respond to intravenous drug users in Dublin city centre for the benefit of drug users and the wider community.

Image: JordiDelgado via Shutterstock

NEW APPROACHES ARE needed to respond to intravenous drug users in Dublin city centre, with high levels of poly drug use being noted by experts working in the field.

A seminar a report launched by Alex White,TD, Minister of State for Primary Care shows that while the most prevalent drug used was heroin, the majority of drug users are now poly drug users with (75 per cent) using more than one drug.

The report, “A Safer City for All – addressing the risks of injecting drug use”, was organised by Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI) and Ana Liffey Drug Project (ALDP). It showed:

  • High levels of poly drug use. While the most prevalent drug was heroin, the report shows the majority of drug users are now poly drug users with (75 per cent) using more than one drug
  • High levels of Hepatitis C (Hep C) and other blood borne viruses (BBV) amongst intravenous drug users (IDUs). 45 per cebt of IDUs in the study reported being positive for Hep C
  • A high risk group of IDUs, where a high incidence of unsafe injecting practices and sharing of equipment are combined with low rates of testing for HIV and Hep C
  • Low access to treatment amongst IDUs who tested positive for Hep C. out of 125 who tested positive for Hep C only 18 were in treatment.

Experts at the seminar called for a number of recommendations to be considered, including the need for easy access to medical detoxification for poly-drug users. The highlighted the fact that many detoxification centres are currently aimed people who use only a single substance such as heroin, or require users to meet relatively high thresholds of stability to access treatment – which they say can further marginalise a proportion of drug users from treatment.

A need for access to blood borne virus (BBV) testing and treatment to be available in current service centres such as MQI’s Health Promotion Unit and ALDP’s Medical Service was also raised. Exploring the concept of Medically Supervised Injecting Centres (MSIC) currently in use in other cities like Madrid or Sydney was also recommended, with data showing these centres can provide early intervention and address issues related to on-street injecting.

“The report confirms people are still using heroin, but polydrug use is now the dominant trend. This means detox services in Ireland have to match the need,” Tony Geoghegan CEO of Merchants Quay Ireland said. “In Ireland there are currently no detox options for this group. Furthermore the report shows a critical need for testing for Hep C and other Blood borne viruses (BBVs) in this at risk group to improve individual health through appropriate treatment but also to reduce the spread of the these diseases.”

“MQI’s current Needle and Syringe Programmes are about harm reduction. 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”

Tony Duffin, Director at Ana Liffey Drug Project, also commented on the main findings of the report, saying: “Of particular interest to me is the finding that 14 per cent of the people surveyed reported generally using in public areas. Ana Liffey is committed to exploring innovative models to address these concerns”.

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