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.

Drug Use Among the Prisoner Population in Ireland

Press Release Thursday 10 April 2014

New study on drug use in Irish prisons shows improvement in treatment provision and support services for prisoners

The National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol (NACDA) today (Thursday 10 April 2014) published a new study on drug use in Irish prisons.  “The prevalence of drug use, including intravenous drug use and blood-borne viruses among the Irish Prisoner Population” was carried out by Dr Anne Drummond and Dr Mary Codd of UCD and was funded by the NACDA and the Irish Prison Service (IPS).

The study aimed to determine the need for drug treatment and harm reduction services in Irish prisons by estimating the prevalence of drug use, including intravenous drug use and blood-borne viruses, amongst the prisoner population.

The study found that while drug use among prisoners is far greater that in the general population, significant improvements have taken place in drug treatment provision and access to support services such as addiction counselling and nursing:

· seven out of ten prisoners who needed methadone said they received it,

· two in ten received detox from benzodiazepines when they needed it,

· four in ten who needed access to a drug-free wing had access to one,

· three in ten who needed drug treatment received it.

The Chair of NACDA, Professor Catherine Comiskey, said, The prison population is a high risk group with a disproportionate number of people with a history of using drugs. In prison it is hoped that they will have an opportunity to effect a positive change in their lives by availing of treatment services”.


Based on the study, NACDA recommended measures that would minimise or eliminate prisoners sharing drug use equipment to manage the risks associated with injecting drugs in prisons, specifically:

· prison reception health screening to identify drug users and provide viral screening, advice on harm reduction, sexual health, overdose prevention, disease prevention, safe tattooing,

· comprehensive drug treatment options should be available and adequately resourced in every prison,

· ensure that those availing of treatment services in prison have smooth transition to appropriate services on release, so that there is continuous care provided to avoid relapse or overdose if left without,

· drug-free wings to help prisoners remain abstinent and to protect non-dependent prisoners from exposure to drugs,

· specific gender sensitive rehabilitation services to address the use of illicit substances by women in prison, to address their particular health needs,

· Cannabis use needs to be considered in the context of increasing international concern regarding the high levels of THC, particularly in herbal cannabis.


Drugs and Health in Irish Prisons 2011 - A Report for Prisoners

Main findings and recommendations arising from the study on the prevalence of drug use, including intravenous drug use, and blood-borne viruses among the Irish prison population - Executive Summary

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