Health Minister outlines progress on tackling alcohol and drug related harm

Date published: 14 August 2015

Health Minister Simon Hamilton has said we must keep up momentum to tackle the serious harm caused by alcohol and drug misuse.

The Minister was speaking as he published the third annual report on progress against Northern Ireland’s 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 across Northern Ireland. Research has indicated that alcohol misuse alone costs our society up to £900million every year, and if we were to add in the costs of drug misuse, I have no doubt this would take us over £1billion.

However, these figures can never describe the true human cost that substance misuse has on our society.”

Welcoming the progress to date, Mr Hamilton said: “To tackle this issue, the revised strategy was launched in 2012, and much progress has been made. For example:

  • a review has been undertaken of alcohol and drug services, with new services and care pathways now available;
  • a Drug and Alcohol Monitoring and Information System is now in place;
  • there is greatly increased service user involvement;
  • the prescription drug misuse action plan is being implemented; and
  • work is underway to develop new alcohol guidelines.

“However, there is still much to do and we are not complacent about the task ahead of us. In particular, prescription drug misuse and the misuse of New Psychoactive Substances remain a very real risk the health and wellbeing of our population and 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 the New Strategic Direction for Alcohol and Drugs Phase 2 continues to be implemented as effectively as possible, and I would 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 Third Annual Update Report is available online and further reports will be published on an annual basis. 

Notes to editors: 

  1. The New Strategic Direction (NSD) for Alcohol and Drugs was originally published in 2006, and an update and revised strategy (NSD Phase 2) was launched in January 2012. 
  2. The New Strategic Direction for Alcohol and Drugs Phase 2 contains 141 short-term outcomes to be taken forward by a range of Government Departments, agencies, the community and voluntary sector, etc. 15 (11%) of the outcomes have been completed, 99 (70%) of these outcomes are classified as being on track for achievement, and 26 (18%) 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. DHSSPS allocates approximately £8million each year to its implementation, and a further £8million is available through the mental health budget for the provision of treatment services.
  4. Media inquires about this press release contact DHSSPS 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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