There is a public face of addiction. It is the zombie-like drug addict we see on the streets or the alcoholic who is staggering home or falling off the bar stool, drunk. The private face presents differently. Not all addicts fit the stereotypes I have mentioned. Addiction affects many people in our society. For every person in addiction, at least six or ten other people are affected by it, often very seriously. We know the economic cost. It is more than €3 billion, considering the crime related and health related matters.
It is also important to look at the changing nature of addiction. We are now in the area of polydrug use of lethal combinations, including alcohol. Services must be able to keep up with these changes in use. Many of the statutory services are focused solely on heroin use. We must also consider the use of the Internet in sourcing substances. In acknowledging the scale of the problem, the point must be made that it is not confined to Dublin. It is a national problem.
Currently, we are seeing a rise in heroin use. It is interesting that it is coinciding with another economic depression. Again, there are no geographic bounds. At a meeting we were told of increases in seizures of heroin for personal use and supply in Dublin city. The European monitoring centre for drugs and drug addiction places Ireland top of the table of EU countries for heroin use. This is compounded by polydrug use, including alcohol use.
It may be because the heroin epidemic began there that Dublin’s inner city has become associated with drugs. The response in the inner city has been remarkable. We have excellent projects and services in the voluntary and community sector. There is SAOL, Soilse, Chrysalis, HOPE and Crinan, to name a few. They are taking on these challenges. The SAOL project produced the Reduce the Use booklet which is being used in Ireland and throughout Europe. There are other interesting initiatives on harm reduction.
We know about death from overdose, lethal mixing and suicide. We have innovative programmes that are seriously at risk of being cut. I am talking about ASIST training, particularly for those dealing directly with vulnerable people. Statutory agencies sometimes send people to do this training and then do not use it, while community projects whose workers would use the training might not have the funding for it. Mindfulness also has a programme. It is a proven strategy for those in recovery. The Oasis Deora counselling centre in North Wall, Dublin, is one of the few that will deal with people in addiction. So many programmes wait until people are in recovery.