Opinion: ‘Benzo’ culture means all drugs strategies need to be quick to adapt

By Brian Hayes

A rapidly changing landscape of drug abuse in Dublin is being mirrored in cities around Europe.

Existing drug strategies and actions are not sufficiently equipped to deal with emerging trends in drug abuse and Tallaght in particular has suffered huge tragedies as a result.

Brian Hayes 1

Brian Hayes MEP was speaking at the Addressing new drugs threats conference

Two out of three deaths from drugs are due to poly-drug use and sedatives known as benzodiazepine (or “benzos).

At a conference I held in Dublin City Centre last week, we heard that benzo abuse is creating an unprecedented level of violence in deprived communities.

Because these drugs are so easily obtained, younger generations are getting hooked very quickly.

A typical case is that of a 14-year-old boy who had started on benzos and picked up 25 charges in a six month period including assault, stabbing and kidnapping. Youngsters are looking for blackout and memory loss and often have no recollection of the crimes that they’ve committed.

Most European countries, including Ireland, still face the need to provide effective and sufficient services to address heroin use and related injecting drug problems.

But no one European country appears to be leading the way with best practice on how to deal with the benzo and polydrug cultures.

Ireland, in comparision with the 27 other EU member states, is still recognised as a prominent country in recognising the problems, but all of us need to retool drug strategies and actions to respond to changing needs.

Developments in information technology and changes in the way young people communicate have implications for any strategy, as well as social changes, such as homelessness and migration.

There is an opportunity here for the member states to pool resources on learning experiences and to devise a programme which could be part-funded by the EU to specifically tackle the trends we’re currently experiencing.

This is what I’m going to be working on over the coming months.

In the past, the political debate has been about 15 to 20 years behind what is actually happening on the street.

We can’t afford a delayed or mis-calculated response to this or we risk seeing generations being wiped out, either through suicide or a life of crime.

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