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Download the Report of the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use

Press Release


Chair Paul Reid calls for immediate implementation of findings to support and resource drugs services

Minister with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy welcomes report and indicates Government will respond speedily to recommendations

25 January 2024 – The Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use, which met from April to October last year, has published its final report, with 36 recommendations for a new Irish model to reduce the harm caused by illicit drugs use. The report and recommendations were formally launched by Assembly Chair Paul Reid, and Government Chief Whip, Minister Hildegarde Naughton T.D., in Dublin Castle today.

The report sets out the totality of the work of the 100-member Assembly over six months, representing the most comprehensive and widespread discussion on drugs policy in the history of the State, which included 130 speakers and panellists, 250 hours of deliberations, and 800 public submissions.

The report and recommendations propose significant changes to existing laws governing penalties for the possession of drugs for personal use, greater funding for and resourcing of services at national and local levels, greater oversight and accountability at Cabinet level, and a broader focus on prevention measures and education about the harmful impact of drugs use.

The report also details the votes by members on the final set of recommendations, where they supported specific measures for implementation including:

  • A decriminalised model, put in place by a pivot from a reliance, in the first instance, on a criminal justice response towards a comprehensive health-led response
  • Strengthened political oversight and priority through the establishment of a dedicated Cabinet Committee on Drugs, chaired by the Taoiseach
  • Prioritisation of supports for marginalised groups and disadvantaged communities
  • Enhanced funding, including additional and new sources of funding
  • A greater focus on prevention and recovery and greater supports for families and children impacted by drug use
  • Strengthened services including the expansion of harm reduction measures and treatment and recovery services, both in prison and in communities
  • Supply reduction, supporting the continued efforts of the Gardaí while strengthening the response to drug-related intimidation and violence by organised crime groups.

The final report has been submitted to the Oireachtas for consideration, and Assembly Chair Paul Reid also presented a copy to the Taoiseach this morning where he outlined its main recommendations. In doing so Mr Reid noted the broad cross-party welcome for the Assembly’s conclusions and called on the Government to seize this momentum and move quickly to implement its recommendations.

Mr Reid commented, “While the Citizens’ Assembly was in session, it is likely that several hundred people in Ireland died of drug-related causes. The emergence of highly potent synthetic opioids towards the end of 2023 and the ongoing drugs-related criminality and violence are daily reminders of the wider threats and challenges that exist arising from drugs use.

We see the remarkable work being done by service providers across the community, voluntary and statutory sectors. They need and deserve greater resources to carry out their work. We do not have to wait for the Oireachtas to consider this report for them to receive the funding to allow them to do their work effectively.

“The Citizens’ Assembly was given the important job of considering what the State could do to significantly reduce the harms caused by illicit drug use, and a clear deadline to produce a final report. We have produced an Irish model set in an Irish context that represents a generational chance to improve the lives of many individuals, families and communities impacted by our current approach to drug use. We owe it to them and society in general to embrace this opportunity.”

Welcoming the publication of the report and recommendations, Government Chief Whip and Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Well Being, and the National Drugs Strategy, Hildegarde Naughton, commented:

“I have long held the view that we as a society have needed to have an open and honest conversation about drugs. Ensuring that the voices of those with lived experience and the voices of young people are heard is key to putting in place the appropriate responses. Government’s decision to establish the Citizens’ Assembly on Drug Use has started this process. And as we can see from this report, drug misuse is a complex issue. There are no easy solutions.

“Misuse of illicit drugs affects every part of Irish society whether urban or rural, affluent or disadvantaged.  The misuse of drugs has devastating consequences for not only the individual grappling with addiction, but also for their families and the communities in which they live. Government is committed to taking a health-led approach to the issue of illicit drugs, a position which is endorsed by this report.

“I would like to thank the 100 members of the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use, including its Chairman Paul Reid, for all their work, time, and effort in producing this comprehensive report and important recommendations. Citizens’ Assemblies are now a feature of our democratic process and I believe this has been an example of deliberative democracy at its best.

Concluding, the Minister said “I can assure the members of the Citizens’ Assembly that their recommendations will be considered carefully and with urgency and will undoubtedly lead to meaningful changes and improvements in how the State responds to these issues.”


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