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    Ireland Takes a Hit: Needles Found on Streets Point to Nationwide Problem

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    The war on drugs in Ireland was meant to help; now it's clear that things haven't exactly panned out according to plan. Drugs are now stronger than ever and this is not just Ireland's problem, it's also a concern for the UK.

    In a recent report, Dublin City council in Ireland stated that 120,000 needles and syringes are lifted from the streets daily by bin collectors.

    Easily accessible by children, the needles are full of blood and pose a huge health risk to those who live in the city. This is just an example of the systematic problem that Ireland has when it comes to tackling drugs, but it is not just a problem in Ireland — it's a nationwide issue as well. Drugs are getting stronger, cheaper and are available in greater, more dangerous quantities than ever before. Regulation is key, according to drug experts, but has the UK finally lost the war on drugs?

    The announcement on Thursday 19 May 2016 that Catherine Byrne will be the new Minister for Drug Strategy in Ireland, signified the continuation of a progressive government keen to keep up their predecessors' hard work in tacking Ireland's drug problem.

    Byrne is a keen advocate of medically supervised injection centers for users, where addicts can inject in a safe environment, so that needles and syringes do not litter the streets of Dublin.

    Previous government minister, Aodhan O Riordain, had also called for the decriminalization of drugs as well as safe areas for users to inject. However for some, this is not enough.

    Progressive governments come and go and the evidence still suggests that drug use in Ireland is not changing. According to the EU Drug Markets Report 2016, Ireland has the highest number of people on psychoactive substances than any other country in Europe.

    Neil Woods founder of LEAP, an organization that spends time persuading policy makers and public alike that drug policy reform is not just a move towards a socially just society, but a move that will help solve problems caused by drugs, believes that this evidence of high drug usage in Ireland is no great surprise.

    "This evidence from Ireland that they use more novel psychoactive substances than other countries is no great shock. They banned them in 2010 which handed a lucrative market to criminals," Neil Woods told Sputnik.

    But as mentioned, Ireland's drug problem is a nationwide issue.

    "If the evidence from Ireland had been considered properly we wouldn't have ended up with the same damaging legislation [in the UK]. It's not just the numbers of people using these drugs, criminal gangs have no concern for safety, an unregulated market means more dangerous products. In Poland, where they have a similar ban, the situation is even more dire, with the highest hospitalization and injuries from these drugs in Europe," Woods said.

    Progressive governments have sought to decriminalize drugs on the streets of Ireland, following the same example Portugal have set, where anyone holding, a less than 10-day supply of drugs will not be arrested. But they have somewhat failed to address the urgent issue of providing treatment centers and medically supervised injection units, something which Portugal has invested in.

    "The decriminalization in Portugal is a logical first step in drug policy reform. Treating drugs as a health problem instead of a punitive one is both pragmatic and humane. It's far cheaper for society to invest in health than in incarceration.

    "But think about it for a moment, if it was your friend, sister, or daughter who had a drug problem, would you rather they got help or were punished? You can either criminalize or care, there's no middle ground," Woods told Sputnik.

    The war on drugs is becoming an ever increasing messy one, leading to gang violence in Ireland, the UK and elsewhere in Europe.

    "There is ever-escalating violence that comes with the war on drugs. There are gang deaths in Ireland and the UK all the time. I believe Manchester have had very regular murders for the last couple of years. The only way to stop this intense intimidation of communities and the ever-spiralling violence is to take the control of drugs away from competing criminal monopolies.

    "In the USA, the murder rate literally halved after they ended alcohol prohibition."

    So even with the appointment of a new government minister for drugs in Ireland, reform and change is not immediate. It seems the government will have a tough job ahead of them, but where some see a setback, others see a solution.

    "[Drugs] are used by more people than ever and the power of international crime grows with every passing year. It's time to regulate to protect our children and our security," Woods said.

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    Tags:
    psychoactive substances, crime, drug dealing, public health, deaths, government, policy, drugs, Great Britain, United Kingdom, Ireland
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