THERE were more than 3,700 people treated for drug addiction by health services in the South-East in 2011, and 481 of them were in Kilkenny, according to the latest HSE statistics.
Alcohol was by far the most problematic drug treated in the region. In total, alcohol was responsible for more substance misuse cases than every other drug combined (1,830 people).
Cannabis was the second-most treated substance in the South-East with 498 cases, closely followed by heroin, which accounted for 16% of all cases (461 people). However, in both Kilkenny and Carlow, heroin remained the second-biggest problem drug, with 152 people treated during the year.
The annual Overview of Drug Misuse report (2011), published last week, covers Carlow, Kilkenny, South Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford. It gives a breakdown of alcohol and drug misuse based on data collected, collated and reported on from various agencies involved with substance misuse in the southeast.
Approximately one in five people treated in Kilkenny was between the ages 18-24, and 66% were male. There was a total of 532 discharges from services in the Carlow/Kilkenny area in 2011, with 173 of these classified as ‘treatment completed’.
There are no statistics yet for 2012, so it is not possible to ascertain whether heroin – already acknowledged as a problem in Kilkenny – has strengthened its grip on the region. The above figures are from the same year in which a number of young Kilkenny men died from heroin overdoses.
But substance misuse services in the county are busier than ever. There is a waiting list for access to services, and it is estimated that there are around 300 heroin users in the area.
The number of individuals accessing the South-East services increased by 28% from the previous year. The HSE says that this growth can be partly attributed to the increase in resources in late 2010, which resulted in a reduction in waiting times for services and created greater capacity of staff to support clients in 2011.
“The substance misuse services in the South-East have developed and expanded over the last few years,” said Dr Derval Howley, the HSE South’s regional co-ordinator for Social Inclusion and Substance Misuse.
“New services such as needle exchange/harm reduction for individuals who continue to inject have been developed. Liaison nurses have been recruited to support both the methadone clinics as well as providing the option of community and residential detoxification and rehabilitation services.”
New residential detoxification beds have been purchased from voluntary providers. Additional addiction counsellors have joined the substance misuse teams to support increased access to counselling and therapeutic supports.
Each county now provides a drop-in service once a week where no appointment is necessary.
“The HSE and voluntary funded services are working more closely together to ensure that people who need support for their own or a family member’s addiction are supported to access treatment, said Dr Howley.”
The HSE Substance Misuse Service in Kilkenny can be contacted on 1890-464600 (9am-5pm Monday-Friday), or a drop in service operates every Monday from 5pm-6.30pm in Ardú, Kickham Street, Kilkenny.