The Blanchardstown Local Drug and Alcohol Task Force (BLDATF) developed the Drug and Alcohol Trends Monitoring System (DATMS) to provide up-to-date information about drug and alcohol use among people living in Dublin 15. The DATMS identified the types of drugs used within the community, and identified new emerging trends at an early stage of development. This information is essential for identifying key issues and will be used to inform the development of appropriate strategies to respond to the identified issues. The data has established a baseline on trends from which future changes will be monitored over time.
The DATMS model employed a mixed-method design comprised of the following primary and secondary data sources:
- A quantitative profile of drug users attending local drug and alcohol treatment services.
- A qualitative exploration of treated and untreated drug and alcohol use.
- Indirect indicators of the prevalence and incidence of drug and alcohol use.
Treated drug and alcohol use:
- The main problem drugs for treated adult drug users included the following: heroin, methadone, alcohol, cannabis (weed), benzodiazepines/z drugs and cocaine powder.
- The main problem drugs for treated under 18 year old drug users included the following: cannabis (weed) and alcohol, with ecstasy and solvents used to a lesser extent.
- Service providers reported an increase in the use of the following drugs by treated drug users: cannabis (weed), benzodiazepines and z drugs, crack cocaine, alcohol, lyrica (prescribed pain killer) and codeine based OTC (pharmacy over the counter) drugs. The increase in the use of weed related to treated under 18 and adult drug users. The increase in the use of the other drugs is related to treated adult drug users only.
- The profile of heroin users has changed over the last few years. The number of heroin users entering treatment is declining; clients are an ageing population of long term users, with less young people accessing treatment.
- Polydrug use was reported to be the norm by the majority of treated under 18 and adult drug users.
- Steroids were used by some men in recovery from problematic drug use,which in some cases was associated with relapse.
Untreated drug and alcohol use:
- For both untreated under 18 and adult drug users:
- Alcohol was the most commonly used drug; binge drinking to excess was a common occurrence among both males and females.
- Cannabis (weed) was the second most commonly used drug; for young people, the frequency of use varied from daily to less frequent use; for some young males’ daily use occurred before and during school.
- Cocaine powder, ecstasy and ketamine were the next most commonly used drugs, with benzodiazepines and z drugs used to a lesser extent.
- Service providers reported an increase in the use of these drugs byuntreated young drug users aged from 15 to early 20’s.
- Ecstasy has made a ‘comeback’ in terms of popularity.
- Ketamine has become increasingly popular in the last twelve months.
- Polydrug use was perceived to be the norm, and predominately occurred at the weekend among young people aged 15 and over.
- Alcohol was reported to be an integral part of polydrug use. A typical drug taking session started with alcohol and was then accompanied by other drugs.
- The frequency of polydrug use depended on the age of the drug user, with those aged from 18 to 30 reporting more regular polydrug use.
- Factors contributing to drug and alcohol use included:
- The easy access to drugs and alcohol. The main method for obtaining drugs was through local dealers. The internet was also reported to beused and some young people used Facebook to buy and sell drugs.
- The normalisation of drug and alcohol use within some peer and familygroups. A common perception was that drugs were widely used, risk free and socially acceptable.
- Inter-generational drug and alcohol misuse.
- A range of mental health disorders were associated with the use of alcohol and other drugs. The HIPE data reported that between 2012 and 2014 there was a significant increase in the number of cases diagnosed with mental health disorders associated with drug use.
- Physical health consequences of drug and alcohol use included health problems associated with smoking and injecting drugs, alcohol related liver diseases, and drug-related overdoses and deaths. Service providers reported concerns about the use of steroids and counterfeit benzodiazepines and z drugs.
- The social consequences of problematic drug use reported included homelessness, a lack of educational attainment, and a lack of rehabilitation options in the form of education and employment.
- Drug-related crime was reported to cause harm to local communities. An increase in the extent of drug debt intimidation for both young people and adults was identified.
- Drug and alcohol related anti-social behaviours were observed in six local communities.
- The range of anti-social activities included drug and alcohol related litter, visible drinking and intoxication, drug dealing, and vandalism.
- Secluded drug using sites that were used on a regular basis were identified in the six local communities.
Gaps in service provision identified by research participants:
- The need for a cannabis treatment service for both young people and adults was reported. Service providers also stated that there was a need to address the perception that weed was a risk free drug.
- An increase in the problem use of crack cocaine was reported in Dublin 15. The provision of harm reduction measures including crack pipes was recommended.
- Unsafe injecting practices were identified which require appropriate consideration and interventions.
- Current harm reduction programmes for young people should be expanded and include information about steroids.
- A longstanding issue associated with methadone maintenance treatment was reported: people are receiving treatment for a considerable number of years. Service providers reported that methadone alone was insufficient to support recovery from heroin misuse; counselling and rehabilitation services need to be an integral part of each clients care plan.
- Service providers reported limited access to psychiatric services for people with substance use and mental health disorders. Access to services was even more limited where problem drugs included alcohol, cannabis, benzodiazepines and z-drugs.
- Service providers reported limited access to detoxification services for the following drugs: benzodiazepines or z-drugs, alcohol and polydrug use (in particular, cannabis and benzodiazepines or z-drugs). In addition, waiting lists for access to detoxification services were reported to be too long. It was also reported that there were insufficient detoxification units for people who also had mental health issues.
- Local family support services work with siblings (both minors and adults) and parents affected by familial drug and/or alcohol use. A number of family members reported the need for improvement in the level of support provided to minors affected by familial substance use.
- The need for improvement in rehabilitation services was reported. In particular, a lack of rehabilitation options in the form of training and employment. A barrier to training is a lack of funding, and the recession has contributed to the lack of employment options for people in recovery. A lack of childcare also serves to hamper the rehabilitation process for some people in recovery. Unstable accommodation and homelessness was also reported as an issue for people in recovery.