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.

NACDA Illicit Drug Markets in Ireland

The National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol publishes an in-depth study of Illicit Drug Markets – new evidence to inform effective policy interventions


The National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol (NACDA) has today published the Illicit Drug Markets in Ireland study. The study, commissioned by the NACDA and conducted by the Health Research Board (HRB), provides in-depth research and analysis on the various factors that influence the development of local drugs markets. It examines the nature, structure and organisation of illicit drug markets in Ireland; the impact of drug-dealing on local communities; and a study of current interventions against drug dealing.


The Chair of the NACDA, Professor Catherine Comiskey, said,

‘This research can help us devise the most effective use of public resources to tackle illicit drug dealing in Ireland. Through in-depth interviews with the Garda National Drugs Unit, public health specialists, drug treatment workers, family support groups, former and active drug users and sellers, and members of the public, this study provides evidence to inform a debate that is often characterised by vigorous opinion and emotive public discussion’.


Dr Johnny Connolly, lead author of the report from the HRB added,

‘Despite widespread concern about the societal impact of illicit drug markets and related crime, and the significant public resources invested in responding to the various harms associated with the trade in illicit drugs, there has been an almost total absence of in-depth research and analysis of this trade and of the nature and impact of such interventions. This research has sought to fill a significant knowledge gap in this important area of Irish drug policy.’


The researchers conclude that a number of key factors need to be taken into consideration in future policy responses:

  1. Future responses need to be premised on a pragmatic use and co-ordination of existing resources and the targeting of those resources at the most harmful aspects of drug markets,
  2. Not all drug markets are equally harmful. For example, some are more violent than others, some involve very young people and open markets cause more disruption to communities than closed ones,
  3. Law-enforcement interventions that focus on the particular harms associated with an individual market have the potential to have an impact on those harms and they may also lead to a more effective and economically viable use of public resources,
  4. Approaches that seek to divert problematic drug users into treatment, that prioritise local community perspectives, and those that occur in collaboration with community-based structures and all relevant agencies, are more likely to be sustainable over time and to win public support.


Professor Catherine Comiskey concluded, ‘Based on the findings in this report, the NACDA recommend firstly that at-risk youth involvement in gang formation and local drug markets needs to be addressed based on best practice. For example, we must assess research and evaluation programmes to establish the extent to which youth diversion initiatives, such as the Garda Youth Diversion Projects, are associated with a reduction in drug use among young people participating in these initiatives. Secondly, consideration should be given to the further development of systems to monitor changing drug trends in line with the EU Early Warning System and also the development of indicators to identify and measure drug supply activity and markets in line with EU proposals.’


Copies of the report are available to download free from the website

NACDA Illicit Drug Markets in Ireland

NACDA Illicit Drug Markets in Ireland - Executive Summary and Recommendations

Note to the Editor


About the NACDA

The NACD was established in July 2000 to advise the Irish Government in relation to the prevalence, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and consequences of problem drug use in Ireland, based on its analysis of research findings and other information available to it. During 2013 the remit of the Committee was extended to incorporate alcohol as well as drugs and is now known as the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol (NACDA). The NACDA comprises representatives nominated from relevant agencies and sectors, both statutory and non-statutory.


About the HRB

The HRB is the lead funding agency for health research in Ireland. It funds research and manages information systems in the areas of drug and alcohol use, disability and mental health. It has a key role in building capacity for research, creating opportunities for researchers, driving translation of discoveries into practice and providing solid evidence to support policy.

The HRB is also the designated national focal point for the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and provide reports and analysis on the illicit drugs situation in Ireland and the responses to it. The EMCDDA team at the HRB gathers data through an extensive network of information providers in the health services, the criminal justice areas, laboratories, government departments and the community and voluntary sector.


Background details on the study:

  • This exploratory study was conducted over a 36-month period (from 2008 to 2010) using a mixed-methodological approach.
  • A cross section of Irish drug markets were studied, two urban, one suburban and one rural drug market.
  • There were 38 face-to-face in-depth interviews with both former and active drug users and street sellers.
  • Twenty interviews with individuals serving prison sentences of more than seven years for drugs supply.
  • Twenty-four interviews with experienced members of dedicated Garda drug units in the four study sites and the Garda National Drugs Unit.
  • Eight interviews with drug treatment workers, publish health specialist, family support group
  • A street survey of 816 local residents and business people (approximately 200 respondents in each location.)
  • Analysis of 1200 drug offences on the Garda PULSE IT system throughout the four study sites and nationwide seizures made by Customs Drug Law enforcement from 18 stations.
  • Analysis of cocaine and heroin purities and adulterants in all study sites by the Forensic Science laboratory.


NACDA Hawkins House, Dublin 2. 01 6354283 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it






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