Health Minister Michelle O'Neill outlines progress on tackling alcohol and drug related harm

Date published: 01 August 2016

Health Minister Michelle O’Neill has said we must keep up momentum to tackle the serious harm caused by alcohol and drug misuse.

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The Minister was speaking as she published the fourth annual report on progress against the cross-departmental strategy to prevent and address the harm related to the misuse of alcohol and drug misuse – the New Strategic Direction for Alcohol and Drugs Phase 2.

Launching the report the Minister said: “Alcohol and drug misuse continue to blight the lives of too many individuals, families and communities. Alcohol misuse alone costs our society up to £900 million every year, and if we were to add in the costs of drug misuse, I have no doubt this would take us over £1 billion. However, these figures can never describe the true human cost that substance misuse has on our society.”

Welcoming the progress to date, the Minister said:  “To tackle this issue, my Department leads on the North’s alcohol and drug strategy. Good progress has been made. For example:

  • following a review of alcohol and drug services, new services are in place and revised care pathways have been put into operation
  • legislation banning the sale, supply and import/export of Psychoactive Substances has been enacted
  • the prescription drug misuse action plan is being implemented
  • new alcohol guidelines have been consulted on by the Chief Medical Officer

“However, there is still much to do and we are not complacent about the task ahead. In particular, prescription drug misuse and the misuse of New Psychoactive Substances remain a very real risk the health and wellbeing of our population.  We need to do more to raise awareness of these issues and provide treatment and support for those who need additional help.”

The Minister continued: “Almost 400 people die each year from an alcohol and/or drug related cause, and over 14,000 people are still admitted to hospital every year from alcohol and drug related conditions. I am therefore committed to ensuring that our substance misuse strategy, the New Strategic Direction for Alcohol and Drugs Phase 2, continues to be implemented as effectively as possible.  I would also like to acknowledge all those who have supported this work to date – particularly those working in the community and voluntary sector.”

The NSD Phase 2 Fourth Annual Update Report is available on the DoH website, and further reports will be published on an annual basis.     

Notes to editors: 

  1. The New Strategic Direction (NSD) for Alcohol and Drugs Phase 2 was launched in 2012.  The Strategy is available on the DoH website.
  2. The New Strategic Direction for Alcohol and Drugs Phase 2 contains 141 short-term an medium-term outcomes to be taken forward by a range of Government Departments, agencies, the community and voluntary sector, etc. 18 (12.8%) of the outcomes have been completed, 104 (74%) of these outcomes are classified as being on track for achievement, and on a further 18 (12.8%) of the outcomes progress is being made but with some delay. At this stage, only one outcome has currently been identified as being not on track for achievement – this relates to research in respect of prescription drug misuse.
  3. NSD Phase 2 sets out outcomes across five main areas: prevention and early intervention; harm reduction; treatment and support; law and criminal justice; and monitoring, evaluation and research. DoH allocates approximately £8 million each year to its implementation, and a further £8 million is available through the mental health budget for the provision of treatment services.
  4. New Psychoactive Substances is the correct term for what are commonly, but misleadingly, referred to as “legal highs”. 
  5. Media inquires about this press release contact DoH Press Office on 028 9052 0567. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 9971 5440 and your call will be returned. Follow us on Twitter @healthdpt

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