Minister says costs for treating drugs and alcohol tops £7M

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has today revealed that treating drug and alcohol addictions costs over £7million.

On 1 March 2010 over 5,550 individuals across Northern Ireland were in treatment for alcohol and/or drug misuse.

Mr McGimpsey said: “In 2009/2010 the five Health and Social Care Trust’s spent over £7million just on providing treatment and support services for those who have come forward seeking support. The actual cost to the health and social care system will be much higher.”

The Health and Social Care Trusts deliver a range of treatment and support services and interventions to address local need, including the provision of statutory community addiction service, in-patient beds, commissioning treatment and support services from the community and voluntary sector, and delivering harm reduction services such as the Needle and Syringe Exchange Scheme and the Substitute Prescribing Scheme.

The Minister continued: “Without intervention and prevention the health service will struggle to cope with alcohol and drug misuse – and related issues such as domestic violence, child protection, mental health and suicide – in the years ahead.

“That is why we must place a significant focus on not just treating those affected by substance misuse, but also in preventing and reducing the related harm.”

Further prevention, early intervention and support initiatives are being taken forward through the cross-departmental, cross-sectoral New Strategic Direction for Alcohol and Drugs (NSD) to deal with the problem of drug and alcohol misuse.

Mr McGimpsey emphasized the work being taken forward by the four local Drug and Alcohol Co-ordination Teams (DACTs). He said: “In addition, I must also commend the excellent work being taken forward by the DACT teams. These have been set up specifically to identify local needs, and put in place relevant local services to meet those needs. I would also like to acknowledge the support provided by the community and voluntary sector – who are key players within the DACTs and the NSD.”

“I remain fully committed to addressing this issue, and my Department has led in revising and updating the strategy, dealing with emerging issues such as legislation and awareness raising around the so-called “legal highs”, and taking a population-wide approach to address the drug that causes most harm in Northern Ireland – alcohol.

“To this end, my Department has been working closely with the Department for Social Development on alcohol licensing, and I fully support the proposal produced by both our Departments to address irresponsible alcohol promotions.”