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30th September 2023 – The Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use has heard repeated calls from a series of speakers that evidence-based prevention measures are needed when it comes to dealing with illegal drugs use in Ireland. The calls were made from medical professionals, representatives from the education sector, and international experts during the fifth meeting of the Assembly this weekend at The Grand Hotel, Malahide, Co. Dublin.

The Assembly is meeting to consider a broad range of perspectives on prevention. This morning members heard about changing patterns of drugs use among third-level students, including a significant increase in cocaine use over the last ten years. Speakers advised of the need for age-appropriate education and wider social supports to be made available as part of an effective approach.

Members also heard from public health experts, including the Chief Medical Officer, Prof Breda Smyth who advised that in recommending any changes to Ireland’s existing drugs laws members should be conscious of how this might decrease the perception of risk associated with drugs use and what the consequences of that might be.

Speaking about today’s meeting and the important issue of prevention the Chair of the Assembly, Paul Reid, said “A lot of drugs prevention measures need to start with younger people. For that reason as well as hearing about the broader national policy on drugs prevention and the public health approach, we also heard about prevention in primary and secondary school, as well as the drivers, prevalence and attitudes to drug use by people in further and higher education.

“As we know, prevention is as important as cure. In considering what approaches work we must understand what type of drugs are being used, and what are the most effective methods for ensuring that the right prevention measures are adopted. This will form an important part of our recommendations to be included as part of our final report.

“We are now at the business-end of the Assembly’s work. We have heard from over 120 speakers, received almost 800 submissions, and participated in the most comprehensive national discussion on drugs use that has ever taken place. We still have work to do, and I look forward to working with the 99 other members of the Assembly in producing a report that will recommend a new Irish model for how we reduce the harm caused by illicit drugs use.”

The running order for Sunday’s meeting is:

9am Resilience & Wellbeing

Professor Pat Dolan, UNESCO Chair in Children, Youth & Civic Engagement, University of Galway

Laura Dunleavy, Kinship Care Ireland

Aubrey McCarthy, Co-founder and Chairman, Tiglin

11:05am Governance & Funding Options

Jim Walsh, Department of Health

Brian Galvin, Health Research Board

Dr. Peter Kelly, School of Nursing and Midwifery TCD

Joe O’Neill, Western Region Drug and Alcohol Task Force

Dr. Orlaigh Quinn

12:50 Case Study

Clondalkin Drug and Alcohol Task Force Prevention and Education Initiative

13:00pm Chair’s closing remarks



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