More addiction counsellors needed

 

Sir, – Addiction Counsellors of Ireland are accredited counsellors with knowledge of the dynamics of addiction and with specific expertise and training in the skills and interventions required to work with people in the various stages of the pathway of problem use.

It is very disappointing to see no mention by the Minister for Health and the Minister of State for the Drug Strategy of the need for investment and employment of addiction counsellors in the public health system as part of multidisciplinary teams to fulfil a key strategic goal of the strategy, to “minimise the harms caused by the use and misuse of substances and promote rehabilitation and recovery”.

In our view, “promoting” rehabilitation and recovery is a mere aspirational goal without determined and concerted action to increase the existing paltry number of counsellors who have not been replaced within the last 10 to 15 years due to retirements.

Addiction is a most complex condition, often described as a chronic, relapsing illness, with severe physical and mental health challenges, which requires very skilled and able professionals to help and support people by delivering a range of therapeutic interventions and programmes to individuals and their families.

There are an estimated 18,988 opiate users alone in Ireland, many of whom are second- and third-generation users.

Over 1.5 million drinkers are drinking harmfully.

Geoffrey Shannon in a recent report stated that “Drug and alcohol abuse place an insurmountable burden on the State agencies and must be viewed as a key risk indicator of child protection”.

Currently, there is no alcohol treatment in many parts of Ireland, and unless centres are populated with accredited professional addiction counsellors, we will continue to see an increase in addiction and attendant health, legal and social consequences with multiple costs to the State.

Would any Minister for Health stand over a general hospital that was not staffed by doctors and nurses? Let us hope that the same Ministers do not stand over a national drugs strategy that does not have counsellors at the centre of public service provision offering parity of alcohol and drug treatment to the thousands of citizens affected.

They and their families deserve it in order to break the destructive cycle of addiction.

This is a time for major investment in the Government’s Healthy Ireland principles. – Yours, etc,

SEAN HARTY,

Chairman,

Addiction Counsellors

of Ireland,

Drumcondra,

Dublin 9.