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Décember 16, 2014

Call for medical injection centres for drug users

Draft legislation may be brought before Government in second quarter of next year.

Draft legislation to introduce medical injection centres for users of opiates such as heroin may be put to Government early next year, according to Ana Liffey Drug Project director Tony Duffin.

Addressing the audience at Ana Liffey’s 2015-2017 strategy launch in Dublin City Hall, Mr Duffin said that measures are needed to combat the “phenomenal” amount of public injecting going on around Dublin in particular.

“We’re currently working with a voluntary assistance scheme of the Bar Council because it would be illegal to deliver a service like that at the moment,” he told The Irish Times prior to the event.


“They’re working on draft legislation, with a senior counsel heading that up. We hope to have draft legislation to bring to Government in the second quarter of next year,” added Mr Duffin, whose organisation is also recommending the implementation of naloxone use in Ireland- a drug that reverses the effects of drug overdoses.

“We’re working with the HSE at the moment on a naloxone pilot, that is part of our strategy. We want to reduce incidents of overdoses as a goal, but within that there’s actions, and one of those actions will be naloxone,” he said of the drug, which has successfully reduced the number of overdose deaths in Scotland since its introduction in 2010.

As part of its new strategy, the Ana Liffey Project, which is based in Dublin but also offers services in the midlands and mid-west regions, has also committed to introducing residential stabilisation services nationwide aimed at helping existing drug users to overcome their addictions.

Although a stated goal of the new plan is to reduce the amount of overdoses occurring in Ireland over the next three years, Mr Duffin was keen to stress that the total elimination of problem drug use just isn’t a realistic prospect.

“We need to accept, as a society, that it is not realistic to expect to be able to stop all drugs entering the country, or to be able to eliminate problem drug use,” he said.

The introduction of new “designer drugs”, some of which are known to contain highly toxic chemical constituents, into the market also remains an ongoing problem for organisations like the Ana Liffey Project according to Mr Duffin.

“Those drugs were sold through headshops previously. We’ve clamped down through legislation… however, it’s pushed the problem underground and there is a black market,” he added.

“It’s an ongoing issue. We have an increasing and diversifying drug problem in Ireland.”

The launch of the 2015-2017 strategy coincided with the release of the Ana Liffey Project’s 2013 annual report, which outlined key figures from the organisation’s actions last year including the 2,750 clients it worked with, and nearly 2,000 needle and syringe programme interventions which it oversaw.

George O’Mahony is one such person who has felt the benefits of services offered by the Ana Liffey Project. A former homeless drug user of five years, 24 year-old O’Mahony became involved with the group after his release from prison earlier this year.

“It’s done a lot for me. If I didn’t have the programme I’m currently on I would have been dead. If I didn’t meet the Ana Liffey, and for them to pick up the phone and ring me and just ask would you like to come for a cup of tea, or ask ‘are you alright?’- that phone call is something that makes a big change to someone’s life,” said Limerick native O’Mahony.

“We need more of these Ana Liffey people, and we need this to go on for years so that people like me can get help,” he added.

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