Ireland’s national drug strategy, ‘Reducing harm, supporting recovery: a health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025’, was launched in July 2017 and is the third consecutive long-term drug policy and strategy document adopted in the country. This is the first strategy to move towards an integrated approach to illicit drug and alcohol use. The strategy sets out an overarching vision for ‘a healthier and safer Ireland, where public health and safety is protected and the harms caused to individuals, families and communities by substance misuse are reduced and every person affected by substance use is empowered to improve their health and wellbeing and quality of life’. The vision is underpinned by five strategic goals that structure the adopted approach: (i) to promote and protect health and well-being; (ii) to minimise the harms caused by the use and misuse of substances and promote rehabilitation and recovery; (iii) to address the harms of drug markets and reduce access to drugs for harmful use; (iv) to support participation of individuals, families and communities; and (v) to develop sound and comprehensive evidence-informed policies and actions. Performance indicators are defined for each goal. The Department of Health has overall responsibility for implementing the strategy, which is supported by a shorter-term action plan (2017-20) that contains 50 actions.
Like other European countries, Ireland evaluates its drug policy and strategy through ongoing indicator monitoring and specific research projects. In 2016, an external assessment of Ireland’s National Drugs Strategy (Interim) 2009-16 was completed; it considered the strategy’s implementation and generated insights for the development of the current strategy. The new strategy contains a number of performance indicators associated with each goal. More broadly, the strategy aims to operationalise a new performance measurement system by 2020.
The Minister for Health has overall responsibility for Ireland’s national drug strategy and is supported by a Minister of State with responsibility for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy. The National Oversight Committee includes representatives from the statutory, community and voluntary sectors and benefits from the expertise of both a clinical and an academic representative. This group meets quarterly and is supported by a standing subcommittee chaired by a senior official at the Department of Health. The subcommittee meets monthly and supports the implementation of the strategy, as well as promoting coordination between national, regional and local levels. The Drugs Policy and Social Inclusion Unit at the Department of Health is responsible for providing objective and informed analysis and advice to the National Oversight Committee. At a sub-national level, local and regional Drug and Alcohol Task Forces are responsible for strategic and operational coordination in the implementation of the strategy. The Health Research Board is Ireland’s Reitox national focal point and manages the commissioning of research for the National Oversight Committee. Its Early Warning and Emerging Trends Committee monitors European and national data sources.