Calls to ‘stop spiralling deaths’ in Tallaght caused by alcohol and drugs

By Mary Dennehy

CALLS have been made to “stop the spiralling deaths” by drug and alcohol misuse, after new figures report that 25 people tragically lost their lives in Tallaght through substance misuse in 2014 – with 197 drug-related deaths recorded in the local area between 2004 and 2014.

According to new figures released by the National Drug-Related Deaths Index (NDRDI), there were 697 drug-related deaths nationally in 2014, 354 of which were due to poisoning and 343 were non-poisoning, which includes cardiac arrest, suicide, respiratory infection and other medical conditions.

tallaght drugs task force meeting 02 collage February 2017
Eamon Dolan and Cathy Murray at the Tallaght Drugs Taskforce meeting

Two-thirds of poisoning deaths nationwide in 2014 involved poly drug use, with benzodiazepines the most common drug group involved in poly drug deaths.

Poly drug use is a growing trend in communities such as Tallaght, with the Tallaght Drugs and Alcohol Drugs Task Force (TDATF) and local drugs projects highlighting their concerns around poly drug use in recent years.

Nationally both heroin and cocaine-related deaths increased in 2014, with alcohol responsible for 13 per cent of all poisoning deaths in the same year.

The figures also reveal that between 2004 and 2014 there were 6,697 deaths among drug users nationwide, a 62 per cent increase in the 11-year period – with 431 deaths recorded in 2004 compared to 697 in 2014.

According to a breakdown of the figures, 197 people passed away from drug-related deaths in the Tallaght area between 2004 and 2014.

The figures also state that the number of drug-related deaths in Tallaght in 2014 was 25, compared to 29 in 2013.

Speaking after the figures were released, Eamon Dolan, Chair of the Tallaght Drugs and Alcohol Taskforce, said it’s “time to stop the spiralling deaths by drug and alcohol misuse”.

According to Mr Dolan: “Drug and alcohol misuse knows no boundaries and the unfortunate fact is that any one of us today could be faced with these tragic circumstances.

“Sadly the figures outlined are all individual family members, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, all taken from this life tragically before their time because of substance misuse.

“In 2014, 697 people died from substance misuse in Ireland.

“It is estimated that when the figures are reviewed in December 2017 this figure will sadly be approximately 715 people . . . an increase from 431 in 2004.

“This represents a 62 per cent increase or 266 more people now dying annually through substance misuse.

“These figures are both frightening and extremely sad, and require immediate attention.”

He added: “We need to highlight the number of people dying, and remind people of the consequences and harm that drugs have on an individual, their family and the wider community – and the consequences of recreational drug use is included in this.

“We would be appealing to people to think of the consequences before taking drugs.”

The drugs and alcohol task force is currently finalising its new strategy, which will feed into the National Drugs Strategy – which is due to be worked on by the Minister of State for Communities and the National Drugs Strategy, Catherine Byrne TD, in March.

Mr Dolan said: “Based on these figures I think the Government needs to look at its investment into the area of drugs.

“The Tallaght Drugs and Alcohol Task Force experience cuts during the bad times, and while we haven’t had any cuts in the last three years our funding has remained static.

“Also, one of the expert advice reports received on the last drugs strategy [2009–2016], stated that one of the failings of the strategy was a lack of political leadership, no ownership . . . this needs to change.

“Also, going forward, all statutory agencies must play their part.”

For further information on the task force and to access details on the drug projects working across local communities, visit www.tallaghtdatf.ie or call 4649303.

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