With a new government recently formed in Ireland, over 30 organisations have signed an open letter calling for the appointment of a Minister for Drugs Strategy.

Drugs have never been more available and Ireland has among the highest overdose rates in the EU. Drugs and drug policy are topics that relate to many people and need to be discussed, the letter notes. The new National Drugs Strategy, announced last week, should be overlooked by a dedicated Minister to help realise the Government’s commitment for a health-based rather than a criminal approach. Help Not Harm, who have been campaigning for a Minister for Drug Strategy in the new Government, and who constructed the letter, and the undersigned believe this would benefit people who use drugs, medical professionals and communities. The new Government is called to act on this immediately.

The full text of the open letter is included below, along with all signatories.

As drugs impact the lives of more and more people in this country, we the undersigned are calling for a comprehensive drug policy to be at the front and centre of the new government. A lack of action will only lead to further preventable deaths and therefore we call for the retention of a Minister for Drugs Strategy.

Currently drugs are dealt with through the criminal justice system and what has been a legitimate attempt at reducing the supply of drugs, has unfortunately not worked. In many ways the current approach has not deterred drug use but it has deterred people from seeking help by stigmatising people who use drugs in the criminal justice system. With an average of one drug overdose every day in Ireland, we believe the topic should be dealt with in a holistic approach that includes public health, education, prevention and harm reduction in coordination with the authorities. We welcome in particular the commitment made in the new Programme of Government to implement a health-based approach rather than a criminal justice approach. Only under the supervision of a Minister can such reforms be effective.

82% of 3rd level students in Ireland have tried drugs in their lifetime. Despite more than forty-years of criminalising the user, drugs have never been more in demand, as cheap and widely available. It is clear that a pragmatic approach is required in order to reduce the harm to society. Saving lives and reducing the harms of drugs is the priority and we believe a designated Minister for Drugs Strategy can help.

Signed,

Help Not Harm
Citywide Drugs Crisis
HIV Ireland
Irish Needle Exchange Forum
Dublin North East Drugs and Alcohol Task Force
The Irish Association of Social Workers
Students for Sensible Drug Policy
BeLongTO
Youth RISE
Fr. Peter McVerry
RADE Recovery through Art, Drama & Education
Clondalkin Tus Nua
South East Region, Family Support Network
St. Dominics Community Response Project Tallaght
Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre
North East Inner City Community Policing Forum
ADAPT “Addressing Drug & Alcohol Problems Together”
FAST Finglas Addiction Support Team
DAISH Project
Bray Travellers CDG
TRP Community Drugs and Alcohol Rehabilitation Services
Liberties Recycling Training and Development
Community Response
Addiction Response Crumlin (ARC)
NORML
The Psychedelic Society of Ireland
DCU Urban Artz
SWAM Youth Services
DCU Students for Sustainability in Human Lifestyles
People Before Profit
Inner City Organisations Network (ICON)
UISCE

Words by Graham de Barra

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