More help sought for users of hard drugs.

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    More help sought for users of hard drugs.

    An Urgent need for a needle exchange programme for hard drug users in Wexford was highlighted this week, following the inquest into the death of a young man who died from a heroin overdose, according to local drug counsellors.

    The Coroners Court heard how he and a companion had used old needles that hadn't been used in months when taking the drugs that proved fatal, and Niamh Clancy, an on-the-ground worker with drug users at the Community Based Drugs Initiative, said that this evidence patently shows the need for a needle exchange programme.

    'There needs to be a needle exchange programme, for the proper disposal of this kind of equipment,' she said. Community drugs worker, Tommy Redmond agreed. 'If there was a needle exchange programme, they would not only get access to safe needles, but you'd get to touch base with people who are using hard drugs like this. You get to talk to them, and maybe help them,' he said, adding that clean needles issued to addicts also cuts down on infections and the spread of HIV.

    The increase in heroin and cocaine use in County Wexford has been dramatic in the two years. Last year there was a 37 per cent increase in the number of heroin users presenting at services, while cocaine users had increased by 53 per cent.

    'Heroin has been around in Wexford for a long time now, maybe six or seven years, but it has always been in smaller pockets. Recently, however, we are seeing people dealing in the streets. Families are being torn assunder by it,' he said.

    Similarly the rise in cocaine use has been staggering. 'The Coroner's report for Dublin last year showed that more people died from cocaine than heroin. But it is seen as a 'recreational' drug. Recreational is a lovely word. But doing cocaine and alcohol from Friday to Monday morning is abuse, not recreation. People think about it as recreational just because they do it in their spare time,' he said.

    He added that the level of violence, as a result of this recreational drug use, is spiralling on the streets.

    As the recession grows, it's expected that the drug culture will also grow as users try to overcome their anxiety and depression. 'The drug use is going to get worse. We certainly don't expect to be less busy over the coming months. People always find the money for drugs or alcohol. That is the addiction. That is the dependency,' he said.

    He added that children as young as ten years of age are presenting with alcohol and drug use problems.

    'They are growing up in a culture of drugs and alcohol. That's where the normalcy of it comes in. Youngsters take hash at 12 years of age as a rite of passage, a way of growing up. That is a big problem. It's all being normalised. It's normal for people to do cocaine and alcohol on a night out,' he said.

    Availability is never a problem for hard drugs either, according to Niamh Clancy.

    'You could go outside the door right now and get any hard drugs you want in this town. It's nearly easier to get heroin than it is to get alcohol at certain times of the day,' she said.

    She added that people have relaxed their attitude to drugs, which in turn has made harder drug use more socially acceptable.

    'Cannabis to some young people is just like having a cigarette. There is no stigma attached to that any more. When that happens the negativity towards other drugs is lessened,' she said.

    In the last ten months Niamh has worked first hand with over 75 drug users, who have presented at the services for help.

    'These are only the people presenting. There are a lot more people who don't,' she said.

    Source: The Wexford People, 27/11,2008
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