The use of cannabis in Kildare is the biggest issue faced by health and social care professionals working with adolescents a conference has been told.
The one-day conference was organised by the HALO Adolescent Substance Misuse Project in collaboration with the National Drug and Rehabilitation Framework.
The conference titled ‘The Impact of Substance Misuse on Adolescents in the Kildare and West Wicklow Area’ took place at the Pipers Hill Campus in Naas last Wednesday.
The conference was told that in March of 2017 six young people attended Naas Hospital Accident and Emergency Department with substance misuse related issues.
HALO Project Co-ordinator Tommy Hunt said the vast majority of the young people seeking help from his project are addicted to cannabis.
“We provide a service to young people between 12 and 18 and the cohort of those who attend the service are 14 to 17 years old. 90% would have problems with cannabis, that is the main one that young people are addicted, to followed by alcohol and then other illicit drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy.
“We are a one-to-one counselling service and the issues that young people present to us with include anger management, school refusal, mental health difficulties including suicidal ideation, self-harm and depression, and involvement in petty crime such as stealing from the family and selling a sibling’s Xbox to pay for drugs. They also run up drug debts and they become dealers themselves as a way of paying off the debt.”
Garda Juvenile Liaison Officer Audrey Sheridan said those abusing drugs were getting younger. “Cannabis is destroying lives and those taking it are getting younger and younger. I know a young man of 12 and I don’t know where he is going to end up because of the damage that cannabis is doing to him, Cannabis is doing the most damage in Kildare. When we think of drugs and drug dealers we think of people selling drugs in back lanes and down dark alleyways but people aren’t buying drugs off dealers in back lanes, they are buying them from their peers.”
Garda Sheridan said some young people are mixing medications with alcohol to induce a high.
“D5s are small yellow tablets which sell for €1 each and D10s are a blue tablet which are also called Bluesies and they sell for €2 each. These are more commonly known as Valium and I would urge parents to be on the lookout for these tablets in their homes.”
Naas Hospital A&E Liason nurse Bernie McMahon that last year there were 26,500 presentations to Naas Hospital of which 1,048 were under the age of 18. She added that as Naas Hospital is primarily an adult hospital most children and teenagers would attend elsewhere, such as Portlaoise or Tallaght. “In March of this year (2017) we had 87 presentations by people under the age of 18 and six of those were for substance related issues. When I say substance related issues I mean problems that can be related back to having consumed substances. For example, I know of one young man who had taken cocaine each day for three days and he came into us complaining of chest pain after he had been running while playing football.”
Other speakers at the conference included Regional Family Support co-ordinator Noreen Ardill who spoke about the strains and difficulties that substance misuse among teenagers causes in the family home.
Professor Des Corrigan from the Trinity College School of Pharmacology spoke about the chemical make up of weed and cannabis and Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Dr Bobby Smyth spoke about the effect that drug use has on a person’s mental health.