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The National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol (NACDA) 2016 data suggests an increase of the use of cannabis and ‘ecstasy’ by young people from  2010/2011 to 2014/2015.  A 2015 National Student Drug Survey found that 83% of respondents had taken at least one ‘controlled’ drug. On average, about one person dies every day from a drug-related death in Ireland.  Many of these involve alcohol, opioids and prescription drugs. Dozens of people die from cocaine and ‘ecstasy’ every year.  A number of highly publicised deaths of   young people  have been associated with New Psychoactive Substances (NPSs). Such NPSs include PMA/PMMA, 25i-BOMe and U-47700 which are often sold as other drugs (e.g. MDMA, 2C-B and cocaine).

Current reforms in Ireland

“Drug testing kits, drug testing at events, centralised drug testing” are being considered by the Department of Health. However,  it remains unclear whether such projects will be piloted as part of the next National Drug Strategy.  A published Misuse of Drugs (Supervised Injection Facilities) Act 2017 will facilitate the piloting of medically-supervised injection facility in Dublin city. The Medical Cannabis Regulations bill will allow for the availability of cannabis-based medicines if passed.  Conversely, a recent report advocates for the establishment of a Compassionate Access Scheme for MS-associated spasticity; nausea and vomitting during chemotherapy; and childhood epilepsy. Furthermore, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality has recommended   “….. a harm reducing and rehabilitative approach to possession of small amounts of illegal drugs”. If the recommendations are adopted they would contribute significantly towards a shift from a criminal justice-based to a health-based approach to drugs.

Youth RISE, Help Not Harm, SSDP Ireland, NORML Ireland and Psychedelic Society of Ireland activists at Ireland’s 2017 Support Don’t Punish event