Fine Gael Cork Senator, Jerry Buttimer today (Tuesday) said reports from Merchants Quay Ireland of an additional 20 heroin users on its needle exchange programme every week last year confirms our worst fears that there is an underlying trend of growing drug use throughout the regions.

“We now have a significant issue with heroin and other drugs, not only in Dublin but in urban areas and regional towns around the country which if not addressed will have disastrous consequences for future generations.

“The Minister for Drugs, the Departments of Health and Education, the HSE, local drugs task forces and local communities must come together to ensure that unified and joined up thinking, which is so urgently needed to tackle this escalating problem, is brought about.

“At a time when the HSE is cutting back on treatment centre funding, youth projects and drug facilities, drug users, who are being abandoned by Government, are finding it increasingly difficult to access the services they so badly need.

“An increase in the provision of methadone treatment places, in-patient treatment beds and community follow-up supports are desperately needed especially in cities like Cork, Limerick and Waterford who are suffering from an escalation in heroin use.

“The situation at present in many parts of the country is totally inadequate. The treatment of addicts must be given priority by the Minister and the HSE. The social repercussions of refusing to deal with the problem will be cataclysmic for years to come.

“At its July meeting the HSE indicated that its proposed development in addiction services for adolescents was being abandoned due to the current economic climate – a retrograde step which contravenes international studies which show that early intervention is the most effective way of curbing the spread of drug use. We must get in early and deal with the problem by educating our schools goers at the earliest opportunity.

“The report highlights again the need for implementation of the rehabilitative pillar and in the provision of extra treatment places. There is huge need for more treatment places in Cork. It is inexcusable that people have to wait up to 12 months to be assessed and then have to wait longer to gain admission for a treatment place. Those who need it must be given immediate access to treatment. If left to wait it could be too late.”