Ana Liffey Drug Project have been providing our country with essential services and help with drug related issues for decades now. The low-threshold, harm reduction organisation have been working behind the scenes to constantly provide on the ground help for drug users, as well as advising national drug strategies and policy changes that they know, through extensive research, will positively impact Ireland’s drug users and abolish shame and stigma that criminalisation brings to both problematic and non-problematic drug users.
The campaign #SaferFromHarm consists of a policy paper calling for decriminalisation of personal possession of drugs in Ireland. As Ana Liffey have said themselves “Our National Drugs Strategy currently advances a ‘health based response to drug use’. However, possession of illicit drugs is a crime, meaning that people who use drugs are, almost by definition, criminals. This tension between criminalising people who use drugs and vindicating a health based approach to drug use is currently a live issue in many countries, and Ireland is no exception. A working group has been established under the National Drug Strategy to look at this issue and is due to make recommendations later this year.”
This isn’t a ‘get out of jail free card’ for those who may use drugs recreationally and don’t want a criminal record if prosecuted for possession to affect jobs, life, travel and so on. It’s a health based approach (already adopted by Ireland, but with criminalisation, proves impossible to implement for a number of factors like fear of prosecution, stigmas and more) opening up platforms for people struggling to come to professionals for help without fear of being prosecuted, meaning more people can seek help whatever their relationship with drugs may be without fearing that the guards will be around the corner to get them.
Speaking at the launch today were Marcus Keane (Ana Liffey Drug Project), Dr John Collins (International Drug Policy Unit, London School of Economics) and Dr. Nuno Capaz (dissuasion commission of Lisbon, Portugal). All experienced speakers showed their sincere support for this proposed policy change and heavily outlined that our traditional way of dealing with this through prohibition leads to stigma, shame and essentially no progression at all. Check out Ana Liffey’s website for a more in depth explanation of what this will mean.
“Drug free society isn’t doable, it never has been and it never will. This makes sure that a drug addict can knock on the door of a treatment centre and know there’s not a police officer around the corner when they’re trying to look for help.” – Dr. Nuno Capaz
“If people are going to be criminalised there’s obviously going to be stigma labelling them on the peripheries of society. We need a shift in society and in how people who use drugs are seen in society. This is a public health issue, not a criminal justice one. This is a health led approach and it’s best for individuals, families and communities.” – Dr. John Collins
When it got to a time for questions at the end, the main concern of attendees was that this will not eradicate problems of dealers, black markets, and so on. But swiftly, these worries and qualms were assured by the fact that overall, this is a very complex issue, and the best thing that we can do right now is have a compassionate and humane approach towards those struggling with drugs. This will not solve everything, but it will be a big step forward and lead on to more liberal possibilities in the future).This proposed policy change will be absolutely essential in removing fear and shame to aid in abolishing stigmas around drugs and drug users. It will be so important (proven by many countries by now) to help rehabilitation and recovery with addicts.
The dance music industry is heavily implicated in recreational drug use (whether you agree or not), and proposed policy changes similar to this mean that eventually, it can lead the way to more liberal discussions and advancements as a country towards services like drug testing at festivals, clubs and so on to ultimately save as many lives as possible. At the moment drug services (HSE, Ana Liffey and so on) can’t provide these services because plainly, it’s illegal.
This isn’t entirely the answer to this issue, in fact, it addresses an issue much more complex than just that of drug testing, but it will be a big step closer for Ireland if this actually becomes implemented. So far, one of the major factors dissuading people that can actually progress and implement some of this is the fact that it will wrongly influence and encourage young people to abuse drugs, so we need to show them that we can take this seriously for the better of Irelands drug problem as a whole, not just recreational use. Here at Four Four we do not condone drug use, but we offer a non-judgmental and harm reduction stance towards the issue, and one we believe is as forward thinking and compassionate as possible.
Stay tuned for an explanatory podcast upcoming with Ana Liffey’s CEO Tony Duffin about the issue and where we stand with drugs in Ireland today.
Find out more about the launch of this campaign here.