Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery 2017-2025
From Department of Health
Last updated on
From Department of Health
Last updated on
Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery was published on 17 July 2017. The foundation for the strategy is the Healthy Ireland Framework, and it aims to promote healthier lifestyles within society and encourage people to make healthier choices around drug and alcohol use.
The vision of the strategy is:
To create a “healthier and safer Ireland, where public health and safety is protected and the harms caused to individuals, families and communities by substance misuse are reduced and every person affected by substance use is empowered to improve their health and wellbeing and quality of life”.
To realise this vision, five strategic goals have been identified:
The strategy contains a 50 point Action Plan from 2017 to 2020, and provides the scope to develop further actions between 2021 and 2025 to ensure the continued relevance of the strategy to emerging needs into the future.
The national drug strategy, Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery, sets out government policy on drug and alcohol use for the period 2017 to 2025. The strategy provides an integrated health-led approach to drug and alcohol use, focused on reducing the harms for individuals, families and communities and promoting rehabilitation and recovery.
This paper was produced collaboratively by staff in the Departments of Health and Public Expenditure and Reform. It profiles labelled drug expenditure, characterises for the first-time unlabelled expenditure on drugs, including lost productivity costs due to drug use, and assesses the performance of the RHSR under the five goals of the strategy.
Arising from the midterm review, six strategic priorities are identified to strengthen the implementation of the national drugs strategy for the period 2021-2025. The strategic priorities reflect the lessons and the stakeholder feedback from the mid-term review and capture the commitments in the Programme for Government. The Rapid Expert Review also recommended having a few key priorities (with specific objectives, related actions and appropriate performance indicators), in order to provide greater coherence in the strategy and facilitate cross-pillar and cross-government coordination.
The implementation of these actions is monitored though the national oversight structures, supported by the coordinated system of monitoring, research and evaluation set out in the strategy. Annual progress report have been prepared by the lead agencies, and the latest document reports on the implementation of the actions to the end of 2020.
A National Oversight Committee, chaired by the Minister with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, meets quarterly to give leadership and direction to support implementation of the strategy.
A Standing Sub-Committee of the National Oversight Committee drives the implementation of the strategy and promotes coordination between national, local and regional levels.
Local and Regional Drug and Alcohol Task Forces play a key role in assessing the extent and nature of the problem in their areas and coordinating action at local level.
The government established a Working Group to consider alternative approaches to the possession of drugs for personal use in December 2017. The formation of this group was a key action in the National Drugs Strategy ‘Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery – a health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025’.
The work programme of the group consisted of meetings with experts from other countries, commissioning research on other jurisdictions and undertaking a public consultation. The consultation process included an online questionnaire, focus groups and an open policy debate. The online questionnaire received a response of over 20,000 people.
The Working Group’s report was submitted to Ministers Harris, Flanagan and Byrne at the end of April 2019, along with a minority report from the Chairperson.
The report considered a range of approaches from depenalisation to decriminalisation and identified five policy options. Of these, the report recommends three policy options:
Adult Caution: The existing Adult Caution Scheme is a discretionary alternative to prosecution, whereby a person found in possession of drugs for personal use could be given a formal caution by An Garda Síochána, who could also provide the individual with a health and social services information leaflet.
Multiple Adult Cautions: Subject to the agreement of the DPP, a person could be given the benefit of an Adult Caution by An Garda Síochána more than once.
Diversion to Health Services: People found in possession of drugs for personal use would be diverted to the Health Service Executive for a health screening and brief intervention with a health professional known as SAOR (Support, Ask and Assess, Offer Assistance and Referral). Where necessary, high-risk drug users will be offered onward referral for treatment or other supports.
The report of the Working Group and the minority report can be accessed here:
The government has decided to implement a Health Diversion Approach, having considered the recommendations in the reports.
Under this new system, when a person is found in possession of drugs for personal use the government has agreed to implement a health diversion approach whereby:
On the first occasion: An Garda Síochána will refer them, on a mandatory basis, to the Health Service Executive for a health screening and brief intervention.
On the second occasion: An Garda Síochána would have discretion to issue an Adult Caution.