Irish minister tells committee ‘war on drugs is not an effective response’

19th January 2022

The Minister of State for the national drugs strategy has told a committee that the “war on drugs” approach has failed, and the number one priority should be to protect children and young children from the dangers of drug use.

Frank Feighan was speaking in front of the Joint Committee on Health to provide an update on Ireland’s drug strategy for the next few years.

The country’s drug strategy was released in 2017 and, according to the Journal, the government claimed that it was aimed at a “more health-led approach.”

Mr Feighan said: “The strategy commits to this approach whereby drug use is treated as a public health issue and not primarily as a criminal justice matter. And let me be clear: a war on drugs is not an effective response to drug use.”

He also reported that nine per cent of the public had used drugs in 2021, and 9,700 cases were treated for problem drug use in 2020, with another 5,800 cases treated for problem alcohol use.

In the hearing, Dr Eamon Keenan, the national clinical lead for addiction in the Health Service Executive (HSE), pointed to the results of a recent survey that shows drug use – cocaine, to be more precise – had substantially increased among those enrolled in higher education institutions.

He said: “We’re going to be allocating about €50,000 of that for training so that across the country we can provide training for staff to deliver appropriate evidence based-interventions to people who are presenting with health problems associated with cocaine and crack cocaine.”

According to some, the three coalition parties could be giving a green light on holding a so-called “Citizen’s assembly”, which could very well be a turning point for Ireland and how the coalition approaches looming questions on drug policy.

Dublin Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan said: “In my constituency, there’s very little that’s more important than drug policy. It’s a huge impact on the inner city.

“The reform of drugs legislation is a complex area and not one where we necessarily share the views of our coalition partner.

“We felt the drugs citizens’ assembly was an excellent and objective way forward that could provide for evidence-based and person-focused change.”

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