Misuse of prescription drugs, alcohol and recreational drug use is a growing new normal, not just in Jobstown, but across the country, say campaign organisers who are calling for the national drugs strategy to catch up.
Community groups in Jobstown, West Tallaght unveiled a new, brave campaign today called Be Smart Be Safe to support families to “get tuned in and to be more aware” of the prevalence and risks of polydrug use. It was launched by Katherine Zappone, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.
Be Smart Be Safe is one of the first campaigns to look beyond illicit or illegal drug use. It is a response to the reality that the drugs landscape in Jobstown, and in communities throughout the country, has changed immeasurably. People today are rarely using one drug but are mixing cocktails of substances, often without recognising it or realising the risks.
Its core message is that those most influenced by alcohol and substance use – illegal and legal – are the children and early teens watching on.
The campaign organisers called for an urgent review of the national drugs strategy to catch up with the reality of polydrug use in communities and to re-orient its focus on the vital role of local-based drug supports to work with families, children and people at risk.
The campaign came about following research by Ámarach Research on behalf of local drug support group JADD (Jobstown Assisting Drug Dependency). It found that while the majority of parents within the survey (355) were aware of the prevalence of drugs, they didn’t know how to deal with it, where to go for advice or how to talk about it.
Shane Hamilton, Co-ordinator of JADD, said that people often did not recognise their own relationships with substances – including legal or prescription.
“People are often taking a combination of substances without seeing them as harmful or unusual,” he said. “It might be pink gin, a sleeping tablet and a joint every now and then. You don’t see yourself as a drug user. It’s just normal, something you do at the weekend.”
“The people who are absorbing our behaviour most are our kids,” he continued. “Everything our children learn about alcohol and drugs, they learn it from us first. We are encouraging people to be smart – take an honest look around their homes, to reflect on their own relationship with substances and, importantly, to get equipped to know how to talk openly to their kids, so they can keep them smart and safe.”
JADD statistics for 2018 underpin this picture of increasing polydrug use. They show that 73% of those who used their services presented as polydrug users, in comparison to just under 15% who presented as single drug users. In addition, 53% of JADD’s clients reported problematic prescription drug use.
Hamilton also said that the way in which people are accessing drugs now using digital and social media is also increasing the hidden harm of polydrug use.
“We have situations – and this is not unique to Jobstown – where people are getting daily texts on ‘special offers’ on drugs available,” he explained. “People can buy counterfeit prescription drugs on Facebook. It’s so much easier to use a mix of drugs without going to the street. And this is putting people at huge hidden health risk.”
Sarah Cummins, Project Leader at Barnardos Lorien Project in Tallaght, a Family Support Service that works primarily with parents with problematic substance difficulties, said that parental substance misuse is recognised as an adverse childhood experience or trauma. In their work, they see the impact that parental drug and alcohol misuse has on children.
“Children often know more about what is happening at home than we would like to think” she said. Some children will try hard every day at school to be ‘normal’ and try not draw attention to themselves. We know that children love their parents and do not want to get their parents into trouble. This is what makes it difficult for children to talk about what is going on at home. We ensure children are safe, and support them to understand and to talk about themselves, their families and their worries as well as supporting their parents to understand what their needs are.”
“Often, when parents come to us for support because they are worried about their child’s behaviour and want help to manage it. They haven’t yet made the connection between their substance misuse and their children’s behaviours. But they are inherently related. When the substance difficulty is addressed and parents are stable or are in recovery we see positive changes with children’s behaviour, emotional well-being, their confidence, happiness, self-esteem.”
Information for parents and families is available on the new website BeSmartBeSafe.ie
For more information contact:
Edel Hackett, Tel: 087-293 5207
Note to editors
Be Smart Be Safe is supported by JADD, Barnardos, Tallaght Drug and Alcohol Task Force, The Tallaght Echo, Tusla and other local organisations and businesses.
JADD (Jobstown Assisting Drug Dependency) is a community drugs support organistion. It was established initially in 1996 in response to the serious development of heroin use in the community. Today it is focused on the new epidemic of polydrug use.