There is an urgent need for better coordination of recovery services for people who use drugs, according to speakers at the Citizens’ Assembly on drugs.
The Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs concluded its third meeting in Malahide this afternoon after a weekend of discussions around the supports that are currently provided to people who use drugs.
According to addiction expert Professor Jo-Hanna Ivers, drug users need what she called “recovery capital” to work through their addiction.
“[Recovery capital is] the factors that people have in their lives that help them sustain their recovery,” she said.
“That’s having access to education, training, housing, employment - somewhere nice to live, somewhere nice to be and engage with your community.”
The 99 members of the Assembly and Chairperson Paul Reid heard that people recovering from drugs use required coordinated efforts from multiple different agencies and bodies to get through their addiction.
Without holistic services, there is often “confusion, inconsistencies, and gaps in how these services are delivered” that are “detrimental” to recovering drug users.
“From a young age, I would have been in and out of prisons and institutions until I was 35,” Addiction Treatment Centres of Ireland spokesperson Mick Devine said.
“I was in and out of methadone clinics and doctors... nobody ever told me there was another way.
Mr Devine said over his 18 years of addiction, the treatments he received were confusing and didn’t feel thought out with his needs in mind.
“From 16 I was put on methadone treatment, no one ever said, ‘we don’t need to try this, we don’t need to try that’.
“No one ever put a recovery map in front of me.”
'It's not just a health issue'
Members of the Assembly also heard there should be more coordinated efforts to address the root causes of drug abuse.
“We blame people for the behaviors associated with poverty,” Dr Austin O'Carroll told Newstalk. “We then criminalise them, so they really keep oppression upon oppression.”
Mr Reid said members of the Assembly have learned the importance of treating addiction as a societal health issue.
“It's not just a health issue. It's a whole of society’s, the whole of Government’s or state agencies’ responses needed,” he said.
The Assembly also heard yesterday drug-involved deaths in Ireland increased from 340 in 2017 to 409 deaths in 2020.
The Citizens' Assembly will next meet in September to make final recommendations to Government regarding legislation around drug use and addiction.