The legal drugs alcohol and tobacco are undoubtedly causing people significant damage. Equally, illegal drugs such as heroin, cocaine, skunk, crystal meth and so on are causing damage. We have not spent much time discussing other addictions, for example, gambling, food, sex and the Internet, that are harmful to those affected by them.
We know the horrific statistics relating to the harm caused by the misuse and abuse of alcohol. The majority of people can use alcohol sensibly, but that there has been a change in Irish drinking patterns is without doubt. People used to have occasional nights out, but they are now bombarded by special offers and load up on cheap alcohol at home. Sales of cheap alcohol are fuelling anti-social behaviour, domestic and street violence and the neglect of children. Young people have a different mindset, in that they deliberately go out to get drunk.
Since alcohol has had a continuous presence in our history and is embedded in our culture, there is a tendency to see its misuse and abuse rather than alcohol itself as the problem. Perhaps we do see it and do not want to take the necessary steps to tackle the problem.
Most drug users and alcoholics will want to quit at some point. The difficulty lies in accessing treatment when they are ready as opposed to months down the line. Keltoi is an excellent facility in the Phoenix Park, but not all of its beds are being used. There have been improvements in Dublin, but the rest of the country is not quite keeping up.
The problems with alcohol and drugs are deep-rooted, serious and complex and there is no easy or quick-fix solution to them, as the motion reveals. Since no Government has delivered to date, it is up to the current Government. The first step is to accept and implement the recommendations of the national misuse steering group and to support the multi-agency, statutory, voluntary and community task forces. I hope that the Government will not fail.