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'Discreet' drug rehabs to be set up

Minister considers new centres to attract professionals needing treatments

by Cormac O'Keefe

Drug services may be set up in descreet offices near places of work in a bid to attract professionals into treatment.

Drugs Strategy Minister Pat Carey said he was considering the proposal following discussions with a number of medical experts.

"There are some suggestions that possibly a way of helping the recreational drug user who might be the solicitor, the barrister or the accountant is, for example, to have a discreet service available in the centre of a financial services district, which would look like any other office. That may be better than expecting people to come to the traditional treatment centre."

Mr Carey added: "I would like to pursue this and some medical professionals have suggested that it would probably something that would be more likely to be effective than expecting people to come to a centre they see as not for them. They don't regard themselves as addicts for a start."

A report on cocaine, published earlier this year by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD), found that drug treatment services in Ireland, particularly in Dublin, dealt primarily with heroin addicts. Experts have pointed out that most recreational users of cocaine would not go to such centres.

The NACD reoirt said British studies had shown that non heroin users of cocaine rarely sought help, suggesting there was "a hidden population of users in need of treatment."

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Minister Carey said discreet offices near people's places of work would be more attractive to office workers and professionals who feel they need help. Mr Carey also asked universities and other third-level institutions to come up with what they thought was necessary in terms of drug services for students. He said he was hearing reports that recreational users were increasingly experiencing problems in their employment.

"We're beginning to come across incidents where their employer is aware they are looking for subs to pay off some debts. Employers are saying 'You can't take the job of electrician seriously, you have to sort yourself out."

Mr Carey said: "Some people are going to learn harsh lessons, on dealing with addiction." The first drop-in centre for recreational cocaine users was established in Galway last May. The centre opens one day a week and was set up in response to a growing cocaine problem in the city.

The Health Service Executive is planning to set up two treatment clinics for cocaine by the end of the year, one in Dublin and one in Cork.

A UN report published in June said Ireland was one of the world's top five countries for increased usaghe of cocaine. Figures published in the Irish Examiner in May revealed a 900% rise in the number of cocaine addicts being treated over the past seven years.