We would like to thank all of our stakeholders and partners for their support this year with resource development, education and awareness raising, research and events. We’re looking forward to future collaboration on new projects in 2022!
We have collated some of our main activities and highlights from 2021 below.
European Web Survey on Drugs 2021
Earlier this year we partnered with the HRB and EMCDDA to promote the EU Web Survey on Drugs (EWSD). The results of this survey are important to us as they will provide the most recent overview of substance use patterns during the COVID period to help inform our work. Improved research on emerging trends and the many different user groups in Ireland is needed to inform new harm reduction services moving forward.
The EWSD was a voluntary and anonymous survey that was promoted in 30 countries and in 29 languages for a 6 week period in 2021.Targeted at people, aged 18 and over, who have used drugs in the last 12 months, the survey aims to improve understanding of patterns of drug use and the diverse user groups in Ireland. The survey was structured in modules on: socio-demographics, drug using patterns, access to treatment, access to drugs (amounts usually bought and prices paid) and how COVID-19 has affected patterns of drug use.
The survey received 5,789 Irish unique participants. We will continue to work with our partners in the HRB to publish a report and papers on the findings from this survey in 2022.
We are very grateful and want to thank all of the participants who took the time to share their experiences as part of this survey, as well as those who shared the information online and with friends!
The Emerging Drug Trends and Drug Checking Working Group Report
On the 17th September 2021, the report of the ‘Emerging Drug Trends and Drug Checking Working Group’ was published by the HSE National Social Inclusion Office. This report reviews drug use and health responses among people who use drugs in nightlife spaces. The Working Group was established as part of the National Drug Strategy ‘Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery: A health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland’ in 2019 to review evidence in relation issues relating to the area of nightlife drug use, health and social responses and the provision of drug checking and monitoring services to reduce drug-related harms.
The report recognises that an emerging stimulant and poly drug culture among new user groups is currently a major issue of concern across Europe and here in Ireland and recommends the development of new harm reduction services in response.
The report was launched at a webinar titled 'Emerging Drug Trends and Health Responses in Nightlife Settings – launch of the Report of the Emerging Drug Trends and Drug Checking Working Group 2021'
Download the report here
Download webinar presentations here
International Overdose Awareness Day
The HSE and Department of Health hosted interactive event to mark International Overdose Awareness Day 2021. This year’s event focused on shared experiences from people who use drugs, families, the third-level student community and those impacted by intentional overdose. Speakers included Minister Frank Feighan, Dr Denis O’Driscoll from the Naloxone Project Ireland, USICE, The Union of Students in Ireland and See Change Ireland. A spoken word poem was also aired by a family member impacted by substance use.
To support the inclusion of peers and people who use drugs, speech bubble posters were developed and sent to each community to capture unique messages.
Badges with awareness raising messages were developed in collaboration with UISCE and sent to each Drug and Alcohol Task Force to disseminate among community projects. Badges were also developed in collaboration with the Union of Students Ireland and shared within networks and with Dublin coffee shops. Find out more here.
‘If You Go, Go Slow’ campaign for the return of nightlife in Ireland
Due to concerns around increased club drug use in Ireland, we launched a new campaign to inform the general public on drug tolerance changes and harm reduction advice as nightlife returned in October 2021.From a health perceptive the HSE are worried that some people may feel that they have to ‘make up’ for lost time which could lead to using substances in extra risky ways. There are concerns that people who took time off from using substances or first time users may be at greater risk.
Through this new campaign, we also wanted to raise awareness around the emergence of new substances in MDMA in the UK, as well as synthetic cannabinoids in cannabis products. Resources included new online content, leaflets, posters, factsheets and tote bags. Resources were sent to third-level institutions nationally and to a number of venues, while a number of targeted ads were promoted across social media.
Get the campaign resources here.
See District Magazine Feature here.
‘View from the Booth’ Video Series
As drug use is now common place across a range of nightlife settings in Europe, it is important for us to develop new relationships and involve the nightlife community in health and social responses in Ireland.
To initiate new safer nightlife projects, we have launched the video series ‘View from the Booth’ to showcase Irish artist’s views on the current drug landscape from their position as DJs.
We wanted to capture the voices of well-known local artists to share their concerns and harm reduction advice as nightlife reopens in Ireland. Nightlife representatives play an important role in discussing the topic of drug use and health in a way that appeals to their community. The videos involve Aidan Thompson, Robbie Kitt and Kasey Keating Brady who touch on the topic of nightlife returning, reduced drug tolerance, mental health, peer influence and mixing drugs.
Many thanks to Sally Downing,Client Director, HSE Communications Division for support with this video series and other communication projects.
Watch ‘View from the Booth’ videos here.
Emerging Drug Trends and Safer Nightlife Event
As part of the launch of our new campaign 'If you go, go slow' we hosted an event and panel discussion on the topic of emerging drug trends and safer nightlife on the 22nd of October.
We brought together community of key stakeholders to discuss the current drug landscape and safer nightlife responses which could help reduce harms in Ireland. The panellists were Nicki Killeen, HSE National Social Inclusion Office, Sophie Ridley, Event Safety Coordinator, Robbie Kitt, Musician and DJ, Somhairle Brennan, The Union of Students in Ireland, Welfare Officer and Craig Connolly, Director at District Magazine. Hosted by RTE Pulse presenter Fionnuala Moran, topics of discussion included the Irish nightlife scene with a focus on the current drug landscape, the return of nightlife, trends of concern such as increasing levels of poly use and the importance of collaboration.
In response to drug use in nightlife settings, the health and events sector need to collaborate moving forward on areas such as environmental prevention, peer support, improving research/data gathering and ways to reduce stigma and encourage help seeking behaviour in cases of emergency.
The event and the 'If you go, go slow' campaign are in response to recent recommendations from the HSE “Emerging Drugs Trends Report Working Group Report 2021’. The report reviews drug use and health responses among people who use drugs in nightlife spaces.
Watch our event video with input from District Magazine and the Union of Students in Ireland here.
See Change Collaboration
As part of its 9th annual Green Ribbon campaign, See Change, Ireland’s national organisation dedicated to ending mental health stigma and discrimination, hosted an online panel discussion focusing on social exclusion, in association with the National Office of Suicide Prevention (NOSP).
Hosted by Ollie Skehan, National Suicide Bereavement Support Coordinator at NOSP, we participated in a panel discussion alongside Dr. Patrick O’Donnell, Clinical Fellow in Social Inclusion, School of Medicine, University of Limerick and Barbara Brennan, See Change Programmes Team Leader.
You can watch this event here
To highlight the correlation between stigma and people who use drugs, we promoted a featured podcast throughout September on our Facebook channel in collaboration with See Change and Denise Joy, S.W.A.A.T Coordinator. You can listen to this podcast Season 3 episode 13 here.
New content, updates and resources
- Factsheet on trends of concern and new drugs in Ireland, September 2021. Download here. Many thanks to Forensic Science Ireland for providing the results of seized substances.
- Nitrous Oxide Factsheets for parents and harm reduction information for people who use
- Synthetic Cannabinoid update October 2021 . Many thanks to Forensic Science Ireland for providing the results of seized substances.
- September update on MDMA contents in Europe with thanks to the Loop for use of their drug checking results.
- New benzodiazepines in Ireland updated content
- Cannabis edible harm reduction information.
- Drugs and mental health
- Awareness raising on poly substance use.
- New ketamine harm reduction information
- We added a new section on drug trend updates and warnings which we will update throughout 2022 as necessary as part of early warning and risk communication structures within the HSE
- Harm reduction content is frequently updated on our site here
- International Recovery Month
- Recovery advice for the Christmas period
Research and Reports
Members of our team are part of a number of research projects which will continue in 2022.
- Evans, D., Keenan, E., and Killeen, N (2021). Drug-related deaths in Ireland: Key Patterns and Trends 2008-2017. National Social Inclusion Office, HSE, Ireland.
- Ivers, J.I., Killeen, N. and Keenan, K. (2021). Drug use, harm-reduction practices and attitudes toward the utilisation of drug safety testing services in an Irish cohort of festival attendees., Irish Journal of Medical Science.
- Hennigan K, Corrigan N, Killeen N, Keenan E, Scully M, Overview of tertiary addiction services response to Opioid Dependence during the Covid 19 pandemic, Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, 2021, p1 - 14Journal Article, 2021 DOI
- Eamon Keenan, Nicki Killeen and Emerging Trends and Drug Checking Working Group, Report of the Emerging Drug Trends and Drug Checking Working Group 2021, HSE, Ireland, September, 2021
- Dr Eamon Keenan and the HSE National Drug Treatment Centre: Eagleton M, Stokes, S, Fenton, F, Keenan E, Therapeutic potential of long-acting opioids and opioid antagonists for SARS-CoV-2 infection, British Journal of Anaesthesia, 2021