A STUDY of drug users and practitioners working with drug users in Cork late last year has been published by a man who has overcome heroin addiction.
James Leonard now has a Masters in Criminology from UCC and is embarking on a PhD in September.
He appeared last year on The Tommy Tiernan Show to share his story.
In a research paper published in recent days in the International Journal of Drug Policy, he surveyed eight people who had used drugs on a problematic level, as well as six people who work with drug users.
The study states: “All people who used drugs problematically had at least one year of abstinence and had been criminalised because of their drug use, all but one had served at least one custodial sentence.
“Participants were asked their opinions on safe injecting facilities, heroin-assisted treatment, decriminalisation of drugs for personal use, de-penalisation of cannabis, and the relationships between economic deprivation and problematic drug use.”
Those surveyed reported that criminalisation and penalties do nothing to deter people from consuming drugs. The report elaborated: “Respondents stressed that, in Cork City, problematic drug use is closely linked with economic deprivation and social exclusion. There was a near consensus that criminalisation and penalisation do not deter consumption, and produce unintended consequences.”
One of the topics pursued was the use of safe injecting facilities, as well as the decriminalisation of drugs for personal use.
The report continued: “Participants were less certain about the utility of heroin-assisted treatment and de-penalisation of cannabis. Many discussions drifted away from alternative policies towards the need for improved treatment provision.”
The paper concluded: “Several participants were clear that none of the alternative policies discussed are ‘silver bullets’. Participants felt that, while they could reduce the harm caused by drugs and drug policies, the Government’s longer-term objectives should be increased treatment provision, and reduced social exclusion and economic deprivation.”
The publication of the report comes after the formation of a new government, with the programme for government (PFG) including a section entitled ‘A Health-Led Approach to Drugs Misuse’.
The PFG says: “We will implement the recommendations of the working group to consider alternative approaches to the possession of drugs for personal use, as an important step in developing a public health-led approach to drug use in this country.
“This approach will connect people who use drugs with health services and a pathway to recovery, avoiding a criminal conviction.”