Wednesday, 23rd March, 2011
Intergenerational Drug Use Apparent in Communities Throughout Ireland
Three generations of families in some communities in Ireland have now been affected by drug misuse. That’s according to Ballymun Youth Action Project (BYAP), the country’s longest-running community drugs project.
BYAP was founded by local people in 1981 in response to the drug-related deaths of three young people in Ballymun. Over the past three decades, the Project has offered a community-based response to drug and alcohol misuse. It has also widened the geographical reach of its work to provide training and support to drugs projects throughout the Greater Dublin region and the rest of Ireland.
Speaking at a conference today (23.03.11) organised as part of a series of events to mark BYAP’s 30th anniversary, Dermot King, Director of the organisation, said intergenerational drug use was now apparent in many communities.
“We have witnessed an intergenerational pattern of drug misuse within some families in Ballymun, and similar patterns are being reported in other communities,” he said. “In some cases, we are now treating the grandchildren of people who attended our service when it was first established 30 years ago.
“Some communities in Ireland have become caught in a vicious cycle of addiction. Drug and alcohol problems are being passed down through different generations of the same families.
“This has far-reaching implications, not just for the individual families concerned, but for entire communities. Linked to an intergenerational cycle of drug misuse are problems such as increased incidences of criminal activity, physical degeneration of neighbourhoods, unemployment, poverty and ill-health. As such, even those families who avoid substance misuse can suffer as a result of high levels of drug use in their local area.
“Community projects like ours are well-placed to respond to the complex problem of intergenerational drug use because we are working at the coalface. However, we need the support of the Government and of statutory organisations working at national level to ensure a coherent response to this problem is offered.”
Mr. King called on the new Government to recognise the vital role played by community-based drugs projects.
“Successive governments have quite rightly listened to the voices of academics and statutory agencies when planning their response to drugs-related problems,” he said. “However, the Government must not ignore the very important voice of communities, who know what is needed on the ground to support those who misuse drugs and to prevent our young people from following in their footsteps.
“Research backs up the call for community voices to be put at the forefront of finding a solution: successive reports, going back as far as the Bradshaw Report in 1983, have called for communities to be consulted with fully and to be central to any proposed solutions. But, to date, despite good intentions from all political parties, we have had little more than cosmetic engagement with those of us on the ground delivering a community response.”
According to Mr. King, different trends in substance misuse have been evident over the lifetime of Ballymun Youth Action Project.
“When BYAP was founded 30 years ago, the worst of the heroin epidemic had yet to arrive here, but other drugs and alcohol were taking away young lives, and our first priority was to help those affected and to educate our community about these drugs,” he said. “Then heroin arrived and made things worse. That situation changed when methadone was introduced, but the problems didn’t just ‘go away’.
“Now, heroin is less prevalent, but people are seeking help due to their use of prescription drugs or head-shop substances. In some cases, these people find it hard to acknowledge they have a problem because they do not view the substances they use as ‘hard-core’ drugs.
“Another problem in some areas is a normalisation of certain drugs. Many young people we work with do not view smoking cannabis, for example, as drug use: they feel it is only wrong to use drugs like cocaine or heroin, but that smoking a joint is fine. This is a perception that we work constantly to challenge.
“We have been working in Ballymun – and supporting the work of similar projects in other communities – for 30 years now, and we feel we are well placed to respond to changing trends and ensure we continue to meet the needs of local communities.”
Today’s conference on substance misuse is taking place in Dublin Castle. In addition to Mr. King, other speakers at the event include: John Lonergan, former Governor of Mountjoy Prison; Professor Joe Barry, Head of the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at Trinity College Dublin; and Dr. Mary Ellen McCann, Vice-Chairperson of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs. A panel of journalists will discuss the media’s treatment of drug use during the event. The full schedule for the event is available at: http://www.byap.ie/30th-anniversary/conference.
Contact: Dermot Ryan / Noomi Egan DHR Communications Tel: 01-4885808 / 086-6002306 / 087-7449915