National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol

The NACDA was established in response to the drug problem to assist in our continued need to improve our knowledge and understanding of problem drug use.

The goal of the NACDA is to advise the Government on problem drug use in Ireland in relation to prevalence, prevention consequences and treatment based on our analysis and interpretation of research findings.

New research shows drug treatment reduces drug use, involvement in crime and improves chances of going back to work

Issued by: The National Advisory Committee on Drugs

For release: 9th October 2008 at 9.30am

New research shows that not only does drug treatment substantially reduce individuals’ drug use and their involvement in crime, it also improves employment outcomes. The data was published today (9th October 2008) in ROSIE Findings 7 (Research Outcome Study in Ireland Evaluating drug treatment effectiveness).  ROSIE is the first national longitudinal multi-site drug treatment outcome study in the country and it was commissioned by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD).

Researchers from NUI Maynooth recruited 404 opiate users when they started drug treatment and followed participants from the point of commencing a new treatment episode and monitored their progress; one-year and three-years after treatment intake.  The outcomes measured in ROSIE were drug use, involvement in crime, injecting-related behaviour, physical and mental health and social functioning among those participating in the study.

Launching the report, John Curran T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, said that the findings are a clear indication that drug treatment works and Government investment is paying dividends.

“The largest reductions in drug use and involvement in crime are achieved in year one and these reductions are sustained at the three-year follow up.  Similarly, in terms of personal development, a significant improvement is made from one-year (22%) to three-years when 33% of the study participants are in employment and/or training.”

“It is the intention of Government to build on these positive outcomes.  Whilst there are still areas for further study, it is clear that continued investment in drug treatment and implementation of the rehabilitation strategy will provide further positive outcomes in the years to come.”

Commenting on the figures, NACD Chairperson, Dr Des Corrigan, stated that compared with international studies, “the ROSIE study has a high follow-up rate 88% completed an interview at 3-years and 72% completed all three interviews.  The study demonstrates that the retention rate in drug treatment in Ireland is very high which contributes to saving lives.  The mortality rate in the study is low when compared to the UK outcome study, NTORS.” 

Dr Corrigan went to say that “there were mixed results for physical and mental health symptoms on highlighting the challenges facing service providers in addressing polydrug use amongst this group and delivery of care for those with a dual diagnosis.”

Dr. Corrigan concluded by saying that whilst methadone treatment emerged as a very effective treatment in the study, harm reduction services also demonstrated effect most notably in the low rates of borrowing or lending of injecting equipment in the study. 

Key findings from ROSIE include:

  • 70% were in some form of treatment at 3-years and of these 86% were in methadone treatment;
  • 29% were abstinent at 3-years with the largest improvement from intake (7%) to 1-year (29%) and this gain was sustained to 3-years (29%);
  • Heroin use reduced from 81% at intake to 47% at 1-year with improvement maintained at 3-years (47%);
  • Reductions in cannabis use, cocaine use and polydrug use were achieved at 1-year and sustained at 3-years;
  • Low rates of injecting-related risk behaviour (borrowing or lending equipment) were observed at intake and no change was observed across all periods;
  • There were mixed results for physical and mental health symptoms which could be due to the measures used, polydrug use or dual diagnosis issues. 
  • There was a significant improvement in the numbers who engaged in training at 3-years;
  • Significantly more people were employed at one-year (22.1%) and at three-years (33%) than at intake (20.5%)

Further Information

Annmarie Brennan / Ronan Cavanagh, Montague Communications:
(01) 830 3116 or (087) 260 5896/ (086) 317 9731

Notes to the Editor:

  • The Minister of State has responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy and Community Affairs at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.
  • This research was commissioned by the NACD in 2002 and following open tender, the contract was awarded to Dr Catherine Comiskey and NUI Maynooth.
  • The study is a fulfilment of the NACD responsibility in relation to Action 99 of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008:  ‘To commission further outcome studies within the Irish setting to establish the current impact of methadone treatment on both individual health and on offending behaviour.  Such studies should be an important tool in determining the long term value of this treatment.’
  • Fieldwork for the study started with recruitment in March 2003 into the pilot testing of the research instruments.  Full recruitment continued from September 2003 to July 2004. The ROSIE study recruited 404 opiate users on entry into three-index treatments; methadone maintenance/reduction (53.2%, n=215) structured detoxification (20%, n=81) and abstinence-based treatment (20.3%, n=82). In addition, a sub-sample of opiate users was recruited from needle-exchanges (6.4%, n=26). These modalities were part of the tender brief from the NACD as they were considered to represent the most widely implemented interventions for opiate users in Ireland.

Research Methodology:

The methodology used is a prospective, longitudinal, observational study.  Participants were interviewed at the three time periods using a pre-prepared interview schedule, which examined key outcome measures including:

  • Drug use (including drug type, frequency and quantity of use);
  • General health (a 10-point physical & psychological health assessment);
  • Social functioning (employment, accommodation, involvement in crime);
  • Harm (injecting behaviour & experience of overdose) and;
  • Mortality (participant/contact feedback & checking non-followed–up participants against General Death Register).

Acquisitive crime refers to all forms of theft, fraud and handling of stolen goods and does not include selling/supply of drugs or soliciting.


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