Number of heroin addicts soars
The extent of Ireland's drug culture has been laid bare with new figures revealing a sharp rise in the number of heroin addicts during the recession.
Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI) revealed demand for its services soared by 17% in the first six months of the year, compared to the same period in 2009. Its annual report showed 9,422 people were supported for drug use and homelessness throughout 2008, a 9% rise.
Elsewhere, the heroin problem has also continued to grow in Dublin, with 642 new injectors at its needle exchange services. More than 200 drug users also engaged with community services in the midlands.
MQI director Tony Geoghegan said vital funding has been cut back despite an increase in demand. "Addressing the drugs crisis is fundamentally about reducing human misery or it is about nothing. It should not be reduced to economics," he said.
"Investment in drug substitution treatment has been shown to reduce other healthcare costs and to reduce crime, and investment in drug-free treatment and aftercare can reduce expenditure 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."
MQI revealed it was now delivering services in 11 counties and 13 prisons, where numbers attending addiction counselling services exceeded 1,000.
The leading charity also provides services ranging from open access crisis intervention and health promotion services, to day support programmes, educational programmes, vocational training and settlement support services.
Mr Geoghegan said building work is almost complete on a new detox facility at St Francis Farm, Carlow, where up to 26 drug users can be treated.
Elsewhere, it has developed aftercare accommodation and vocational training initiatives for people completing residential drug treatment and has a range of services across counties of Westmeath, Offaly, Longford and Laois.