Ireland has one of highest drug death rates

With the numbers seeking treatment for drug addiction on the rise, Tabor Lodge Clinical Director Mick Devine examines the issues and calls for more funding for those needing help
Ireland has one of highest drug death rates
Mick Devine, Clinical Director, Tabor Lodge, with Frances Black.

DRUG addiction kills — far more often and far easier than many people realise.

Ireland has one of the highest drug mortality rates (70 per million people) in the EU. This makes us fourth highest, where the average is 22 per million.

That’s bad enough, but just last week, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction reported concerns at the rising detections of ‘highly potent’synthetic heroin, known as fentanyl, which can kill in minute doses.

Furthermore, the HSE has issued warnings about the circulation of high strength MDMA (ecstasy) tablets following two deaths at a music festival in the UK and as the festival season kicks off in Ireland.

As the economy recovers and there is more disposable income around, cocaine use is also sky-rocketing. According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction’s European Drug Report 2018, we have the fourth highest recent use of cocaine among young adults, at 2.9%, against a 1.9% EU average — and there has been a 90% jump in new cocaine treatment cases since 2012.

This upward trend in illicit substance abuse is something we are familiar with at Tabor Group addiction treatment centres. Alcohol remains the drug of choice — but cocaine and heroin use are on the rise and more funding is needed to secure treatment for those that need it desperately.

The number of patients presenting with heroin/opiate addiction has almost doubled since 2016 from 5-8% while cocaine use has almost trebled from 4-11%.

At Tabor Group’s three residential centres, over 300 people accessed treatment last year. Seven in ten seeking help were for alcohol-related problems, but one in five sought treatment for cocaine or heroin issues, according to figures released this month as part of Tabor Group’s Annual Report 2017.

High numbers of clients are presenting with poly-drug use and dual diagnosis of mental illnesses. We are seeing the patient profile changing, with mental health challenges and a history of childhood trauma becoming more evident.

We continually find that the complexity of the needs of individuals who seek our services grows and the interventions of multi-disciplinary teams, across different service providers, are required in many cases.

We pride ourselves on working closely with many agencies, particularly the HSE Drug and Alcohol services and Probation services in case management and key working protocols, with the aim of enhancing the client’s success in treatment as well as recovery afterwards.

When a person self refers, or is referred by someone else, they start their recovery with a 28-day residential treatment programme at Tabor Lodge, following the Minnesota Method of treatment. The 12-Step Minnesota method adheres to the disease model of addiction, which treats addiction as an illness, which is chronic and progressive. The inability to control drinking or drug use is seen as a symptom, a compulsive behaviour, and complete abstinence from alcohol or drug consumption is the long-term means of managing the illness.

Tabor Lodge’s 28-day programme consists of one-to-one counselling, group therapy, education, meditation, and nature walks. We believe family support is crucial for rehabilitation and encourage families to participate in a family programme or attend family counselling. After that, all patients are invited to continue their care as part of a 12-week residential programme at either Fellowship House (men) or Renewal (women). Here they learn to reintegrate into society and deal with any emotional/trauma issues through counselling to help them avoid relapse. We also offer continued care services once a patient has left residential treatment, as well as family support.

Cost is often a factor cited by patients as a barrier to accessing treatment. Tabor Group works with each client on an individual basis and our services are heavily subsidised by State support through the HSE (including the Drug & Alcohol Task Forces), Probation Services and the local authorities.

Despite the subsidies and client contributions, Tabor Group faces significant bad debts every year and therefore striking the balance between the organisation’s sustainability and charitable ethos is a constant challenge.

Ireland’s national Drug and Alcohol Strategy recognises that financial support for addicted people with complex needs must be provided and Tabor Group’s core value of social justice requires we engage fully with any initiatives that enable access to treatment for those limited by a variety of disadvantages. Tabor Group welcomes the funding for such initiatives and more funding for such treatment provision must now follow.

Let’s make sure the rising tide of economic growth lifts all boats. In particular, those that we abandoned when the country collapsed economically — youth, those with learning difficulties, those with mental health challenges, those now homeless, those with a precarious hold on the factors that provide stability in our society, the addicted people and their family. Time to rescue those we abandoned in the panic of economic collapse when we saved our own skins but left many to flounder.

Tabor Group launched their 2017 Annual Report during the Mayor of the County of Cork Cllr Declan Hurley’s visit to the redeveloped men’s extended treatment centre at Fellowship House, part of the Tabor Group, on June 6. See www.taborgroup.ie for more

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