Posted on Saturday, 15 December 2018
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Drug and Alcohol Trends Monitoring System (DATMS) 2018: YEAR 3

Research objectives & method

In 2015 we developed our DATMS in Dublin 15. The objective was to establish an evidence base for drug use in Dublin 15 and use this data to inform local service provision. In order to always have current information and to monitor changes over time the study is repeated annually. We published the first report in 2016 (DATMS Year 1), the second in 2017 (DATMS Year 2) and this report documents the third year of our DATMS. The DATMS employs a mixed-method design comprised of primary and secondary data sources.

Socio-demographic profile of Dublin 15, 2006-2016

  • Population increased by 20% from 90,974 in 2006 to 109,895 in 2016
  • Population is younger and more ethnically diverse than nationally
  • Stabilisation of unemployment levels after an increase during the economic downturn
  • Increase in educational attainment of population
  • Increase in privately rented housing and decrease in owner occupied housing
  • Dublin 15 remains categorised as marginally above average levels of disadvantage; the deprived population decreased from 31% in 2006 to 24% in 2016

Treated drug use

  • Mapping treatment demand identifies that drug and alcohol dependence is a community wide issue affecting all socio-economic groups, though most treated drug users lived in deprived areas

Treated drug users aged Under 18

  • Treated cases increased 143% to 124 cases in Year 3
  • The majority of cases are male and Irish
  • The majority of cases attend secondary schools with DEIS status, identifying the relationship between social deprivation and drug use
  • Cannabis herb is the most commonly used drug followed by Alcohol
  • Polydrug users account for 93% of cases

Treated drug users aged 18 and over

  • NDTRS data reports a reduction in the number of treated cases from 637 in 2016 to 501 in 2017
  • The majority of treated cases are Irish, male and aged 25 to 34 years
  • 39% of cases are in treatment for drugs for the first time
  • The main problem drugs for the majority of cases are Opiates, followed by Alcohol and Cocaine
  • The majority of cases are treated for polydrug use
    • Benzodiazepines are the most common second problem drug
  • DATMS participants report an increase in the use of Cocaine, Alcohol, Cannabis, Z drugs and Benzodiazepines
  • Estimated prevalence rates of substance misuse identify a large proportion of problem drug users in Dublin 15 not in treatment

Untreated drug use

All three years of the DATMS report similar profiles of untreated drug use by young people and adults:

  • Drug use is reported among all socio-economic groups, a range of ethnicities and in all areas of Dublin 15
  • Alcohol, Cannabis herb, MDMA, and Cocaine powder are the main drugs used
  • Polydrug use is the norm
  • Increases in the use of Cannabis herb, Cocaine powder, Benzodiazepines and Z drugs are reported
  • Prevalence rates of drug use estimate 20,015 Dublin 15 residents aged 15 to 34 years recently used alcohol compared with 32,873 aged from 35 years; and 2,771 Dublin 15 residents aged 15 to 34 years recently used illegal drugs compared with 1,011 aged from 35 years

Education prevention

As a drug prevention measure, in 2017 funding was provided for educational psychological assessments. Sixty young people were assessed; a profile of these cases includes:

  • The majority attended primary school, were female, aged from 10 to 15 years and Irish
  • Most young people were diagnosed with more than one difficulty or disorder
    • Types of diagnoses included low IQ scores, learning, speech and language difficulties, mental health, emotional and behavioural disorders
  • Types of recommendations suggested included learning supports, curriculum modifications or exemptions, and referrals to mental and physical health services
  • The need to provide these assessments was evidenced by:
    • Young people waiting two or more years for assessments
    • A significant amount of young people with a range of personal, familial and environmental risk factors for drug use

Factors contributing to drug use

Easy access to drugs and alcohol

  • Factors contributing to ease of access includes an increase in the number of under 18s dealing drugs
  • All three years reported an increase in the availability of Benzodiazepines and Z drugs
  • An increase in the availability of Crack Cocaine and Cannabis herb was reported in Year 1 and 3

Normalisation of drug and alcohol use

  • In all three years of the DATMS the normalisation of drug use featured prominently; the common perception is that drugs are widely used, risk free and socially acceptable

Family context

  • All three years of the DATMS report the family context as a risk factor for the normalisation of drug and alcohol use, the development of inter-generational drug and alcohol dependence, and mental health issues
  • Family support services report that 48% of clients sought support due to a family members drug use
  • Youth mental ill-health as a risk factor for drug use
    • From Year 1 to Year 3, an increase in the incidence of anxiety related issues among children and young people was reported
    • High prevalence rates of mental health disorders among young Dublin 15 population are reported, along with a large proportion of cases not in treatment

Consequences of drug and alcohol use

Health consequences

  • HIPE data from 2012 to 2017 reports the following:
    • Increase in number of treatment episodes for mental health and behavioural disorders due to drug use among Dublin 15 residents aged 30 and over
    • Increase in number of drug-related poisonings among people living in Dublin 15
  • NDRDI data for 2011 to 2015 identifies that actual levels of poisoning deaths in the BLDATF area were lower than expected in most years’, except in 2014 when they were higher
  • Data suggested that Chemsex was not a significant issue in Dublin 15 among treated drug users

Social consequences

  • All three DATMS years report the negative impact drug use has on family relationships, employment, finances, housing and education
    • Many treated drug users and their family members experience more than one of these issues
    • These social consequences were reported to be a barrier to rehabilitation

Drug-related crime

  • All three years of the DATMS report the existence of drug-related crime in Dublin 15
  • Year 3 reports drug debt intimidation as the most frequently occurring crime with an increase in its frequency from Year 2 to 3

Service provision gaps identified by research participants


  • Improve drug prevention programmes
  • Funding for BLDATF public awareness campaign 'Think before you buy'
  • Increase access to skills based mental health wellbeing programmes


  • Improve treatment programmes for young people
  • Improve access to detoxification programmes
  • Resume community drug and alcohol team and community alcohol programme service provisions
  • Improve access to childcare to increase access to treatment and rehabilitation services
  • Develop out-of-hours treatment services
  • Increase public knowledge of local service provision
  • Increase access to mental health services


  • Improve access to aftercare services, training, employment and housing

Family support services

  • Improve support services for families of drug users

Supply reduction

  • Develop guidelines for the management of drug debt intimidation without involving the Gardai

Gaps DATMS evidence base

  • Comprehensive profile of family members affected by drug use and untreated adult drug use
  • Create a more robust profile of treated drug use by improving the quality of data returns to the NDTRS

Download the full report here: