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To understand how drug abuse effects our health we must look
at the social determinants of health and how they affect the usage of drugs in
Ireland. What is the social determinants of health? According to the WHO (2017)
social determinants of health is defined as “The social determinants of health
are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. These
circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at
global, national and local levels. The social determinants of health are mostly
responsible for health inequities – the unfair and avoidable differences in
health status seen within and between countries.” In the following report we
will explore the above statement in relation to drug abuse and how it effects
our health. (WHO, 2017)

The drugs prevalence survey, 2014/15,
found that one in four Irish adults (26.4%) has tried an illegal drug at least
once in their lifetime. Trends over the past decade point to an increase in the
rate of drug use, with the greatest increase in amongst the younger generation
aged 15-34.

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to the results of a survey by the all-Ireland drug use survey suggests the
trends of illegal drug use in Ireland is on the rise indicating that the
overall prevalence rate of drug use has increased by 1.9% between the years of
2010/11 (7%) and 2014/15 (8.9%).  Other
findings of the report include: (Bill stewart, 2016)

The usage of cannabis continues to
be the most commonly used drug with 27.9% of the users being between the ages
of 15 and 64.

The usage of ecstasy has increased
significantly since 2010 with the percentage usage increasing from 0.9% – 4.4%.

In the 25-34 years age group,
22.7% of men have used ecstasy in their lifetime compared to women with only

24% reported to have taken
anti-depressants.   (Bill stewart, 2016)

A recent study indicates that the
prevalence of problematic opiate use in Ireland has stabilised and fewer young
people are starting to use opiates. Based on 2014 figures, there are an
estimated 18,988 opiate users in Ireland. While the overall prevalence is
stabilising, the spread of opiate use across the country is apparent, although
highest prevalence rates are still recorded in Dublin. (godon hay,

The major problem arising with drug use is
the drug-related poisonings/non-poisonings that can ultimately lead to death.
Data from the National Drug-Related Deaths Index, 2004-2014, found that in the
11 year period a total of 6,697 deaths were recorded due to overdose (whether
intentional or accidental) and deaths among drug users (such as those due to
Hepatitis C and HIV). In 2014, 697 deaths were recorded with 354 being due to
poisoning deaths and 343 being due to non-poisoning deaths. (board, 2016)

According to a survey done by Statista
2014 when we compare the Irish data to other EU countries, you can see from the
chart (Figure 1) below, that in 2014 Ireland had the 4th highest drug induced
death rate with 71 deaths per million of the population for the age group 16 –
64. From the chart you can also see that Estonia has the highest drug induced
death rates. The reason for Estonia’s high death rate is due to an overdose
boom which is caused by fentanyl, a synthetic form of heroin produced illicitly
in Russia.

Why is Ireland 4th in Europe
for mortality rates? Despite the fact that needle exchange programmes have
proven to be highly effective at reducing the potential risks associated with
drug use, there is only one full-time needle exchange service in the country.
Therefore drug users are more likely to reuse or share needles which can lead
to an increased risk to exposure to HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and hepatitis
A. If we take a look outside of Europe, Estonia’s problems are pulled into
sharp relief compared the rate in the United States. In 2016, the US
experienced an astonishing 185 deaths per million. (Armstrong,

(Figure 1) (Armstrong,

Due to the incredibly high mortality rate in Ireland the
government has launched the “Reducing harm, supporting recovery- a health led
response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025”. The aim of this strategy
is to reduce the harm caused by drugs and alcohol abuse through the five goals
of the Ottawa charter 1986. These goals are as follows: (Anon., 2017)

promote and protect health and wellbeing.

minimise the harm which is caused by drug abuse and to promote rehabilitation
and recovery.

address the harms of drug markets and to reduce the access to drugs.

support the participation of the individuals, families and communities.

develop sound and comprehensive evidence.

In Ireland there have been specialised drug
rehabilitation centres set up. These centres indicate that opioids (mainly
heroin) remain the most commonly used drug among those entering rehabilitation.
Between the years of 2006 and 2010, heroin was the main problematic drug
reported by new entrants, however this was superseded by cannabis in 2011, and
this is still the case. The use of cocaine peaked among new entrants in 2009.
Both amphetamines and MDMA are reported only very rarely by new entrants to
treatment. Roughly one quarter of clients entering rehabilitation are female;
however, this proportion varies depending on the primary drug and treatment
programme. For example, females are more likely to seek treatment for primary
amphetamine or heroin use rather than for the use of cannabis or cocaine. (Board, 2017)





(Figure 2) (Board, 2017)

In conclusion Ireland’s drug rates are increasing as many younger
people are beginning to use drugs. With this growing drug use rate we can
expect to have a high mortality rate as drug use can be associated with many health
problems such as HIV,HBV, HAV and HCV which can
be contracted VIA needle sharing or unprotected sex. The “reducing harm,
supporting recovery” strategy was launched in hope to reduce drug use and
support users whom are entering treatment by 2025.





















Anon., 2016. prevalence
of Drug use and gambling in Ireland and Drug use in Northern Ireland., dublin:
National Adisory Committee on Drugs and Alchol..
Anon., 2017. reducing harm, supporting recovery
2017 – 2025. Online
Available at:
Accessed 30 12 2017.
Armstrong, M., 2017. statista. Online
Available at:
Accessed 30 12 2017.
Bill stewart, e. a., 2016. Prevalence of drug use
and gambling in ireland and drug use in northern ireland, dublin:
national advisory committee on drugs and alcohol.
board, H. r., 2016. national drug-related deaths
index 2004 -2014, Dublin: health research board.
Board, H. R., 2017. Drug Report 2017, s.l.:
Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg..
board, h. r., 2017. drugs and alcohol. Online

Available at:
Accessed 30 12 2017.
godon hay, e. a., 2017. drugs and alcohol. Online

Available at:
Accessed 30 12 2017.
WHO, 2017. World health organization. Online.


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