From [email protected] <[email protected]>
Subject Drugnet Issue 76
Date March 22, 2021 9:05 AM
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Impact of Covid-19 on drug use in Ireland
by Deirdre Mongan
Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 11 March 2020. In
Ireland, all schools, universities, and childcare facilities were closed on 12 March, followed by
closure of all non-essential shops and strict restrictions on people’s movements on 24 March. In
April and May 2020, the Europe Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) conducted a
Mini-European Web Survey1 to gather information on how patterns of drug use may have changed in
Europe due to Covid-19 restrictions; the impact on people who use drugs; and challenges for service
providers. Data were collected from 696 respondents in Ireland between 11 April and 1 June 2020.

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In brief
The post-Christmas surge in Covid-19 cases and associated hospitalisations has, thankfully, provoked
limited recrimination and blame. Perhaps it stems from the exhaustion after 12 months of pandemic or
a fresh determination to meet the problem with renewed vigour now that an eventual end is in sight.
There is also the realisation that this is a complex problem requiring the rigorous application of
analytical and implementation skills from many disciplines. Early in the twentieth century, the
journalist HL Mencken observed that ‘for every complex problem there is an answer that is clear,
simple, and wrong’. So, while it may seem like a platitude to say a problem is complex, it is often
the best answer to the many clear, simple, and wrong solutions offered, often in the loudest voice.

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Alcohol pricing and marketing: policy actions from WHO
by Lucy Dillion
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Office for Europe has published reports on the
evidence and recommended policy actions for reducing the harm caused by alcohol via its pricing and
marketing regulations.1, 2 The reports are intended to be a resource for governments and those
implementing policies across Europe.

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Drug education best practice for health, community, and youth workers
by Lucy Dillion
A paper by Darcy (2021) outlining a toolkit for those delivering drug education was published in the
Health Education Journal entitled ‘Drug education best practice for health, community and youth
workers: a practical and accessible tool-kit’.1 It aims to support health, community, and youth
workers by providing best practice guidance on drug education with children, young people, and
adults. As well as outlining effective approaches to adopt when delivering drug education and issues
to consider when setting up and delivering a programme, the paper sets out to provide conceptual
clarity on the distinction between drug education and other approaches to drug issues, in particular
drug prevention.

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EMCDDA Best Practice Portal
by Lucy Dillion
In his paper outlining a toolkit for those delivering drug education, Darcy (2021) refers to the
EMCDDA’s Best Practice Portal.1,2 The Best Practice Portal is designed to help practitioners find
practical and reliable information on what works (and what does not) in the areas of prevention,
treatment, harm reduction, and social reintegration. It aims to help them identify tried and tested
interventions quickly, allocate resources to what is effective, and improve interventions applying
tools, standards, and guidelines. The portal is divided into four broad areas.

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Irish drug policy alternatives: a qualitative study
by Lucy Dillion
The voice of people who use drugs (PWUD) is often missing from the debate on drug policy. In an
effort to address this gap, Leonard and Windle in 2020 published the findings of a qualitative study
carried out in Cork: ‘I could have went down a different path’: talking to people who used drugs
problematically and service providers about Irish drug policy alternatives.1 The findings are placed
within the broader context of international literature on the topic.

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European schools drug and alcohol survey
by Anne Doyle
This is the seventh Irish data-collection wave of the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and
Other Drugs (ESPAD) that collects comparable data on substance use among European students aged 15
and 16 years.1 In the 2019 data-collection wave, 1,949 Irish students, from a stratified random
sample of 50 post-primary schools, completed a questionnaire on issues including alcohol use,
cigarette smoking and e-cigarette use, cannabis and other illegal drug use, gambling, gaming, and
internet use.

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Parental problem alcohol use and education
by Anne Doyle
At least one in six young people in Ireland suffers from alcohol-related harms at home due to
parental problem alcohol use. This exposure is considered an adverse childhood experience (ACE), the
effects of which can be lifelong, impacting both physical and mental health. Silent Voices, an
initiative of Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI), seeks to highlight the harm caused by parental problem
alcohol use and its impact across the lifespan.1

Using accounts from children – including reflections from adult children of alcoholics (ACOAs) –
affected by parental problem alcohol use, AAI collaborated with the School of Applied Psychology at
University College Cork (UCC) to understand how children cope with this ACE, particularly during
their school years.2 It considers the role that schools could play in identifying and supporting
this cohort of children and makes recommendations for teachers, schools, and the education system.

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Garda Youth Diversion Programme: review and evaluation
by Ciara H Guiney
In September 2020, the Department of Justice and Equality published a review and evaluation of two
Garda Youth Diversion Programmes (GYDPs).1,2,3 The aim of the evaluation was to examine the
effectiveness of two pilot youth justice intervention programmes supported by the Department of
Justice and Equality: Programme A and B.1

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Garda Youth Diversion Programme annual conference
by Ciara H Guiney
In July 2020, the Department of Justice and Equality published the Report of proceedings: a Garda
Youth Diversion Projects annual conference 2019.1 The conference, which took place in the Croke Park
Conference Centre on 6 November 2019, brought together over 300 delegates from across Ireland. The
conference provided a space for delegates to reflect on existing practices and experiences, learn
from each other, and contribute to how the Garda Youth Diversion Programme (GYDP) and youth justice
policy develop going forward.

In the opening address, the then Minister of State David Stanton TD welcomed delegates to the
conference, which aimed to focus on issues of professional and personal importance to him, as a
politician and former teacher and guidance counsellor. Department of Justice and Equality updates
were delivered by principal officer Deaglán Ó Briain, responsible for criminal policy and community
safety policy.

The event consisted of two sessions: the morning focused on providing information (presentations and
discussions), while the afternoon involved interaction (plenary sessions and facilitated working
groups of 15 to 20 participants). The first guest presentation was by Noeline Blackwell, human
rights lawyer and CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. This was followed by presentations from
Chief Supt Colette Quinn, director of the Youth Diversion Programme at An Garda Síochána; the Action
Research Project team at the University of Limerick; and the Best Practice Development team at the
Department of Justice and Equality.

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Brief interventions targeting long-term benzodiazepine and Z-drug use in primary care
by Catherine Walshe
A recent study by Lynch et al. (2020) explored the effectiveness of primary care interventions on
reducing or discontinuing benzodiazepine/Z-drug use compared with usual care.1 Benzodiazepines are
often indicated in the clinical treatment of anxiety and insomnia. Z-drugs (zopiclone and zolpidem)
behave similar to benzodiazepines but are not classed as such. Z-drugs and benzodiazepines can
however be grouped as benzodiazepine receptor agonists (BZRA). Treatment recommendations include
restricting use to short time periods due to the implications of addiction and withdrawal. However,
treatment guidelines are often not adhered to, resulting in long-term BZRA use persisting worldwide.
Prevalence rates of BZRA consumption is highest among older people (65+ years), making them
particularly vulnerable to adverse physical and cognitive effects of BZRA use.

Much of the research on interventions has focused on benzodiazepines, with Z-drugs receiving less
attention. A critique of the research into these interventions is the absence of theoretical
underpinnings, limiting the understanding of the mechanisms of change impacting outcomes. To account
for this, the study authors applied the theoretical domains framework (TDF) to understand the
barriers and facilitators to behaviour change necessary for effective interventions.

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Merchants Quay Ireland annual review, 2018
by Seán Millar
Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI) is a national voluntary agency providing services for homeless people
and drug users. There are 22 MQI locations in 12 counties in the Republic of Ireland (see Figure 1).
In October 2019, MQI published its annual review for 2018.1 MQI aims to offer accessible,
high-quality and effective services to people dealing with homelessness and addiction in order to
meet their complex needs in a non-judgmental and compassionate way. This article highlights services
provided by MQI to drug users in Ireland in 2018.

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New publications
Recent Publications
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EU drug markets: impact of Covid-19
by Ciara H Guiney
In May 2020, a report that examined the short-term impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on European Union
(EU) drug markets was published.1 This was a joint initiative by the European Monitoring Centre for
Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and Europol. The aim of the report was to increase understanding
of the impact of Covid-19 on EU drug markets. Within this context, the definition of the illicit
drugs market included illicit production, trafficking, and wholesale distribution and sale to the
end-user (p. 6). The findings in the report are centred on data collected using a targeted EMCDDA
online survey completed by drug experts in EU member states (n=29), intelligence gathered by Europol
on organised crime, and open source information. Areas examined in the report include impacts and
drivers of drug markets, the main drug types, criminal groups, law enforcement responses, and

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