North inner city Dublin areas like a drug ‘supermarket’ at times - Lord Mayor

Ana Liffey Drug Project begins information campaign on street tablets such as benzodiazepines

Parts of Dublin's north inner city could be compared to a "supermarket for drugs" at times, Lord Mayor Nial Ring has said.

The Ana Liffey Drug Project on Friday said the area was facing a problem with "street tablets", which were the cause of two-thirds of fatal overdoses in 2015.

These include benzodiazepines, which are prescribed for anxiety and insomnia; ‘z-drugs’ such as zolpidem, zopiclone, zaleplon, which are sleeping pills; and pregabalian, which is used to manage conditions such as epilepsy. These drugs are obtained from prescriptions and sold on the streets, while counterfeit tablets are being bought online.

Ana Liffey on Friday announced an information campaign entitled ‘Do You Use Street Tablets?’ which features advice for drug users on how to avoid overdoses as well as the services available to assist those with addiction problems.


Tony Duffin, Ana Liffey chief executive, said street tablets were a "particular problem" for Dublin's north inner city while drug users were taking a "multiple of drugs".

‘Just a mess’

“It is no longer, and it hasn’t been for a very long time, a heroin problem. It is a polydrug use problem. It is a problem of benzodiazepines, it is a problem of heroin, crack cocaine and alcohol...It’s just a mess out there,” he said.

Mr Ring said there were “trays” of tablets going around the north inner city, which contain between eight and 12 tablets. He said the area, which he represents, could sometimes “be compared to just a supermarket for drugs and the trays of benzos which are going around is horrific”.

“We know the harm it does, in terms of not only to families and people you love, but also to society in general.”

More than half the respondents to client surveys conducted by Ana Liffey reported using unprescribed benzodiazepines in the past week. Mr Duffin said the information campaign was an attempt to engage with users, keep them safe and get them to stabilise and seek treatment.

“Harm reduction does not encourage people to take does not do that. People don’t take drugs because of advice of how to do it safely, they take drugs because of how they feel, they want to feel differently whether it’s for recreational purposes or because they have an addiction,” he said.


Dawn Russell, head of services with Ana Liffey, said the issue of tablets "is increasing and it's also changing and diversifying".

“What tablets we’re dealing with are changing and they’re changing so rapidly it can be hard for staff and people who use drugs to keep up with the information,” she said.

Ana Liffey’s advice includes taking tablets with “trusted friends and in a safe environment”, not bingeing, knowing your drug source and taking a small dose first and waiting at least two hours before using again. Those using tablets frequently are advised not to stop suddenly but to seek help instead.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times