Addiction services - what's available?

Breaking the habit…

The extent of the drugs problem that Ireland faces today would be unrecognisable to people living only a quarter of a century ago. Back when alcohol and nicotine were the hardest of the nation's favoured drugs of choice, no one could have foreseen how quickly and devastatingly heroin, a medication in times past, would take hold on a generation of young people.

Yet since the drug first obtained a foothold in Ireland in the late Seventies, its use has escalated and today heroin addiction is a fact of life for many people, not only in Dublin, but in many towns in Ireland. The extremely addictive nature of the drug makes it particularly difficult for people who take it regularly to stop. Unlike some other illegal drugs, such as cannabis, the body adapts physiologically to heroin quite quickly. This means that the physical cravings can be great and withdrawing from using it can be very hard indeed.

Heroin is a highly addictive substance, which makes withdrawal a difficult process.

For many who take heroin, treatment will not suffice. Their addiction will end in tragedy. In 1997, nearly 80 people died as a result of taking drugs. Some of these deaths were accidental overdoses and reactions involving medication, but the majority were illegal drug overdoses.

Breaking free

One recent study found that most heroin addicts will never be able to break free from their addiction. It revealed that in addition to the physical problems associated with taking heroin, addicts tended to suffer from depression, anxiety and physical illness as a result of their failed attempts to quit the drug.

"Drug addiction is a complex illness", explains Noreen Byrne of the Northern Area Health Board. "For many people, drug addiction becomes chronic, with relapses even after long periods of abstinence. Because addiction has so many dimensions and disrupts so many aspects of an individual's life, treatment for this illness is never simple".

There are an estimated 13,000 heroin users in the Dublin area.

In the NAHB region, there are around 2,000 patients receiving treatment for drug addiction. Of these, around 600 are being seen by their family doctors and the remainder are dealt with by central treatment services. The South Western Area Health Board also covers parts of the city which have been blighted by heroin. There are over 2,200 clients currently receiving treatment in the board’s area. It provides services from nine centres and nine satellite clinics. Nearly 60 GPs provide services under the methadone treatment system.

But throughout the city there are only 5,000 treatment places for an estimated 13,000 addicts. Many drug users remain beyond the reach of health board services, and as they are often homeless as well, they rarely come in contact with any branch of the health or social services, apart from the Gardai.

There are a small number of private addiction treatment services in Ireland but places are limited and many people can not afford this kind of care unless they have private health insurance. Even then cover is limited to a maximum amount of days for alcoholism or substance abuse treatment.

Needle exchange

At the Merchant's Quay Project in Dublin's inner city, Dermot Kavanagh helps to run a drop-in centre where active drug users can exchange their needles, receive some medical care and obtain advice on safer drug use, improving their health and trying to quit. The centre receives over 200 visitors each day - around 4,000 individual drug users a year.

"At Merchants Quay we work with drug users at whatever stage of addiction they happen to be", he says. "We run a needle exchange for them because our real emphasis is to assist them in reducing the harm associated with taking drugs. We have nurses on hand who can treat them for drug related injuries like abscesses".

Only 15% to 20% of heroin users who complete a treatment programme will remain drug free for life afterwards, it is estimated.

In addiction centres, patients are given a range of services designed to help them withdraw from drugs and rejoin normal society. Many addicts will have had adverse experiences with the police, either because possessing heroin is a crime, or because they have committed crimes to fund their addiction. Others may be suffering mental difficulties as a result of their addiction. All will have been physically affected by the drugs they have taken.

We offer structured support programmes for people who want help in quitting drugs", says Dermot Kavanagh. "These people might already be on methadone maintenance programmes. These day programmes emphasise education, training, counselling and how to use their leisure time. Once a person no longer spends every hour of the day looking for drugs or looking for money to get drugs, they have to learn how to fill their time".

Professional staff

At most addiction centres, addicts are overseen by a consultant psychiatrist, backed up by a multi-disciplinary team of doctors, nurses and social workers. They are helped to detoxify, sometimes with the assistance of methadone. The centres provide patients with education, prevention techniques, counselling and medical support.

People who complete a course at a treatment centre need help in rehabilitating themselves back into society, otherwise it is always possible that they will relapse. Various rehabilitation and reintegration services exist, usually based in communities that have seen years of drug addiction. Often, former addicts are involved in the organisation of such services.

Drug users need assistance in rehabilitating themselves into normal society.

In some cases, addiction treatment and rehabilitation is available under the same roof. These centres are often private, grant-aided organisations that can provide an integrated approach to dealing with drug addiction. Many addicts have received little formal education and they need to develop new talents to secure a job and a foothold in life.

Educational and social needs

Merchants Quay runs a 12 week residential programme on a farm where the participants can develop farming related skills and learn to break free from the environment in which they used to take drugs. A health board funded project, Soilse, also attempts to treat addiction by addressing the person's social and educational needs.

"Soilse puts great store in creativity, respecting and appreciating the enormous potential each person possesses", explained Noreen Byrne. "Art, drama, music, photography, dance, creative writing and video are used to allow for self-exploration and expression".

By offering drug users the chance to explore a different and more rewarding lifestyle, addiction treatment centres address the root problem, which often goes beyond the physical addiction. Training drug users in life skills, employment training or the arts, opens up a route for them back into the world the rest of us inhabit.

Nevertheless, despite the growth of services to help drug users break the cycle of addiction, crime and ill health, there remains a lack of vision to properly address Dublin's heroin problem. Dermot Kavanagh believes it is time that the authorities considered practical solutions, no matter how controversial they may initially seem.

European experience

"Figures from Germany, Switzerland and Holland show that providing safe, clean, monitored places for drug users to inject needs to be considered seriously here. The tabloids will talk of 'shooting galleries', but needle exchanges were shocking five years ago and giving out methadone was shocking ten years ago. Our view is pragmatic - if any initiative reduces the level of drug related deaths and misery, we want to see it considered in Dublin".

The Merchants Quay Project's record in successfully rehabilitating addicts into normal life is good. In conjunction with UCD, they train addiction treatment workers for the health boards and community groups in order to share their knowledge. If they believe that the next step in the war against heroin is to set up such safe areas for addicts to take heroin, then it might be time to consider it.

A drugs helpline is available at 1800 459 459. This helpline provides advice and information about services to drug users and to family or friends who may be worried or who have experienced a drug problem.

Where to go for addiction services:

Addiction services are available within various health boards and at:

  • Anna Liffey Drug Project, 13 Lower Abbey Street, Dublin 1, 8786899
  • Arbour House Treatment Centre, St Finbarr's Hospital, Cork, 021-968933
  • Aisling Group and Bradan Foundation, Dowdstown, Navan, Meath, 046-75979
  • Coaim, Nelson Mandela House, 44 Lwr Gardiner St, Dublin 1, 8338033
  • Coolmine House, 19 Lord Edward St, Dublin 2, 6794822
  • Cuan Mhuire Centres, Cardington, Athy, Kildare, 0507-31493
  • Drug Treatment Centre Board, Trinity Court, 30-31 Pearse St, Dublin 2, 6771122
  • Hanly Centre, The Mews, Eblana Avenue, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, 2809795
  • Merchant's Quay Project, Dublin 8, 6790044
  • Rutland Centre, Knocklyon House, Knocklyon Road, Dublin 16 - a private residential treatment centre, 4946358
  • Smarmore Castle Private Clinic, Co Louth - a 22-bed addiction treatment facility. For more, click here


Anonymous - 10/08/2001 20:06

I was wondering if there is a well known , respected Sex therapist in this country dealing with addiction. Specifically addiction to prostitutes & Pornography? Unable to locate a specialist that deals particulairly with this type of obsessive behaviour. Only a certain amount of money availabe!Anxious to meet suitable person.

Anthony(furlong4) - 08/09/2001 13:49

While the above article is excellent in advising people to contact these centres - what about a communities response to the heroin problem. Lots of communities in Tallaght, Ballyfermot, Clondalkin, have centres in their own communities dealing with their own illicit/llicit drug use. So an article like the one above which is informative - perhaps could be balanced out with an article on services provided within the communities.

brian(bn1949) - 13/09/2001 16:38

There are services in the (Mid)West - for example Slainte, 57 O'Connell St, Limerick provide information counselling and treatment services, with a particular focus on young people.Ring 1850 700 850. A national directory of services is also available.

Anonymous - 09/12/2002 17:33

The correct telephone number for The Drug Treatment Centre Board, Trinity Court, 30-31 Pearse Street, Dublin 2 is: 01-6488 600 (e-mail

Anonymous - 18/01/2003 14:42

please can anyone give me info on setting up a parents support group in our community.

dromana - 22/01/2003 16:04

Is there any support group amongst medical professionals for nurses with addiction/alcohol problems? There are many amongst us and we are not facing up to this problem in a mature and helplful way. They only solution seems to be punative, which causes the addict to hide there problem instead of felling that they can ask for help

DEIRDRE(DEIRDREOCONNOR) - 14/02/2003 12:26


Anonymous - 21/09/2003 20:23

i was wondering if anyone could tell me where i could get information on where drug addicts can turn to for help? places in the west are preferred.

Terri(ZXP21398) - 01/12/2004 14:41

Heroin Addiction is becoming a huge problem in Carlow Town and it seems nobody is doing any thing about it

caroline(NIQ26549) - 04/04/2005 21:11

can uany one help me find somewhere in limerick that can help with drug addiction

valerie(TIN30422) - 21/06/2005 15:10

Can anybody tell me of a good rehabilitation service in West of Ireland for someone with cross addictions, - alcohol, drugs and gambling. Thanks

Anonymous - 27/09/2005 01:06

my boyfriend is addicted to cannabis and wants to stop,where can he go for help.

Anonymous - 02/11/2005 14:28

Partner admitted he is addicted to internet porn. Living in the Midlands and would like to visit a course in controling his addiction

Benny - 24/11/2005 15:28

Those seeking help with sex addiction should ring the sexual addiction centre to avail of a therapist-Owen Stephens0863814366. Also contact the Rutland Centre on 4946358 to obtain details of how to contact to 12 step fellowship Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. Help is out there!!!!

want2bnormal - 15/01/2006 22:25

hi...i live in dublin..and i got a MAJOR problen with sex addiction. i've tried many times to stop this sick behaviour but i cant..i spen alot of my hard earned money on prostitutes and porn. i mannaged to stay away from it before for a period, but even then it waz a struggle... i hate myself for the way i live,if you could call it living my life. i need help,,this is really killing me,,,last week after a sex rampage i felt like killing myself....i know the problem lies with me and not the sex industry as i know that will always be there.... am i alone with this problem? i feel like i cant tell any one,,as i feel like a pervert....thanks for reading this and if any one can steer me in the right direction,,,please do.

Anonymous - 16/01/2006 03:31

Forest healthcare in Wicklow is a new and excellent facility in treating addiction using the M I method (motivational interviewing). It is non confrontational and having exhausted other approaches I am thankfully beneffitting from having done the 3 week programme two months ago.

belle - 18/01/2006 14:32

Hi want2bnormal. Sex addicion has to be treated like any other addiction there are support groups for your addiction i can understand that because of the nature of the addiction it must be very lonely it isent something you can openly talk about to people in general. Find yourself a support group sex anonomous you will be with people who understands what you are going through its free and you may find yourself a sponsor to help you through. Your not on your own there are many people out there with this problem so dont go it alone. you may find a meeting near you on a web site they are not usuaily hard to find or ring an std health clinic i suggest std clinic because i cant think of another one that may know maybe family planning or your doctor. Hang in there the most important thing is you want help now all you need to do is find it and stay strong !

jtg - 20/03/2006 14:43

addicted to all class a drugs, thought it was all perfect for first while but life getting messy and annoying, need help...

jade - 17/04/2006 22:37

im a 29yr old female looking to get involved in helping drug addicts, ive no experance other thanliving and growing up around addicts if i could be giving some advice on were to start looking in dublin

sands - 18/04/2006 17:47

im an 18 year old girl livin in galway addicted to hash.i really need to get of it,its ruining my life, i dont know where to go for help. can anyone help me, or give me information gettn help.

Caroline(GAQ45786) - 24/04/2006 14:28

Looking to work with drug addicts. Have no experience except family and friends who have addicitions. I was hoping i could get in somewhere that needs a secretary or receptionist to get me started any advice.?

Namrod - 21/06/2006 20:45

Their is also an addiction service run by health board in Dominick st, Galway.Round the corner from Bridge Mills.

CSA - 03/07/2006 13:17

Information on Sexual Addictions and some of the supports available in Ireland is now available on the Centre for Sexual Addictions website at

Anonymous - 24/07/2006 17:38

Hi was wondering if anyone can recommend a drug treatment centre in the south east that has good results. thanks!

cats - 30/07/2006 22:05

im in a metadone clinic in dublin, i am moving to longford to get away from it and gain back custody of my kids. my clinic doctor told me that there is months waiting list for the clinic near where I am moving to, i start a new job on the 8th of august and have been told by my doctor that i will have to buy metadone on the streets, i tryed that and was sold cough medicine so i had a slip of heroin, please help i feel like giving up in life, yours desperatly, cats (please get back to me)help me find a gp

Annie - 03/08/2006 10:53

Hi Cats, My husband is a on-off heroin addict. At the moment my life is upside down i dont know where to turn to. Every few months just when i think he is getting better he will have a re-lapse and its taking chunks out of me. Any way I know how you feel, we went to my local gp and although she is very nice heroin is not in her field. She said she could prescribe metadone but at this stage he wanted to go cold turkey, so she gave him tablets to take the edge off things he did it and he was getting on great that was nearly 4 months ago, but i started to have doubts about him and done a check of the house and shed i found the evidence there. So now im back to square one again all i can do is keep searching on the internet for advice, when you dont have the financial funds its alot harder as you probably already know. Look i know its hard and you do need to talk to get through things you can send me another message and i'll try help you if i can, if you have the support it does make things better. Dont give up i know this sounds cheesey but you have to stay positive, there are times when i hate what my husband is doing to me and the family but i wont give up on him, if i did he would take that road and i dont want that for him. But he has to prove he wants the help and i will help him as long as he talks and discusses feelings etc. if you need to have a chat any time im here ok.

Anonymous - 05/11/2006 16:12

There seems to be no clinic or rehab centre that can provide a detox service and counceling, without having to wait months. Also I have 2 family members addicted to heroin and methadone because their GP's are not providing the service and support that i feel they should! This country is an absoulute disgrace when it comes to addiction support there are no clear avenues for people to take.

sjz - 14/12/2006 13:50

heroin addiction is not just a dublin problem but has already spread across the country. Slainte in O Connell St in Limerick is a drop in centre for addicts providing counselling and access to methadone through gp\'s. Also Nar- Anon have meetings across the country with groups treating all types of drug addiction from hash to heroin. I am not an addict but have been dealing with a family members addicition for 2 years, its a long road but help is out there.

Charlie Dee - 08/01/2007 10:18

Hi an thank you for letting me sign up to your web site. I\'m 27 and have been addicted to heroin ofr the past 3-4years and I need help in finding myself the RIGHT type of help with my addiction! Not many people know I\'m a heroin addict, I work for every penny I use, it\'s a very good job I have and I\'m very frightened of loosing it and everything falling apart. I\'ve 2 kids for 2 different women, I live with one of the mothers an my daughter an have only come clean with my sons mother about the whole situation. As a result I don\'t see my son anymore and I owe it to my son to clean up my act and become the father that I\'m supposed to be! My partner is coming to the end of giving me chances on kickin the habit and I\'m afraid I\'ll end up loosing her and my little girl too. I\'m distraught with what to do an where to go for treatment, a residental placement seems to be the only way of me propperly gettin off the drug. I\'m truely determind in getting my life back in order if Anyone could give me info on who and where to go I\'d be forever greatful. I live in the Clondalkin area of the City. Please post up numbers and contacts. Thanking you, Charlie.

bebeas - 22/03/2007 20:24

where is the help for gamblers why is there no public notefication on gambling addiction support There is no education in our schools on gambling addiction in ireland why not.Help me to interduce a education programme in the schools please.I am dislexic. sorry for the bad spelling.

lulu - 02/04/2007 14:47

Hi, I'm a student and I'm really interessted in contacting anyone who has experience in dealing with heroin and methadone clinics for the purpose of my thesis. I'm from Waterford and the problem is escalating here. I feel if I know a bit more about it, I'll be able to help other people. Thankyou for your time

Choco - 07/04/2007 18:50

Hi all. I would be very interested on some feedback from those working from a tier2 model/ responce to treatment for adolescents using drugs in a community. Problems encountering, whats working, whats not. Has anyone had problems with the area of consentual treatment??

Katherine(DGN62828) - 19/06/2007 17:50

Does anyone know of a reformed addict who has rebuilt their life and is now getting married? We are looking for such a person to take part in a TV Documentary. Pls call 01 661 0234 or email Thank you.

Jaynee - 21/10/2007 19:57

I'm a heroin addict living in the south east but I'm from kildare. I have been on-off methadone and been into treatment before - nothing seems to work. Ireland is awash with it - the "devils dust'" that is my name for heroin. Does anyone know about the drug " subotex" - its supposed to be a better alternative than methadone, and u can go to work as normal taking it. Its not as bad to withdraw from than methadone ( that gets into ur bones) too hard to come off it and u end up back at square one. its only a temporary solution to the massive growing problem now in all the small towns in ireland. Not just Dublin...People must be blind not to be able to see what's going on in Ireland and the figures for addicts is way way way off - only the ones registered are the figures they have. What about all the poor unfortunates that can't tell family or friends or register on a programme as its not available in their area. I work and live in south east and have to drive 3 hours to get my methadone and 3 hours back home.again time after time.. Dont know how long i can last doing this and hold down a job an "pretend to all around me that everythign is "A - OK " when is so not. Lulu mail me and ill give you any info u want for your thesis ( i went thru university as a heroin addict ) Im dealing with this crap nine years now nearly ten... You want some help with a thesis for college - ill write u a book on it.... Anyway does anyone out there in this miserable world of heroin addiction have any info on " Subotex " the methadobe alternative as its been used in uk and europe.. Can u get it here.How & where?? Is it any better than methadone ??????? From Me who is now Desperate, and someone who wishes they never took the drug in the first place- oh!!! if i could turn back time--never would i have touched it if i had of realised the devestating effects it would of had on me, all my family, and friends, and torn apart and destroyed my life like it still is.... xxx P.S..... Any young person out there reading this, if offered or tempted togive it a go or out of curiosity, dont try it as u might like it and say goodbye to ur future.. Dont do it, so, so, so not worth it - believe me....

jaynee - 21/10/2007 20:05

Lulu Contact me re: your thesis

Clo - 28/11/2007 11:55

Hi. My partner is a heroin addict and I don't think I can cope with it any more. We have 2 children and i don't think I can continue to bring them up in a house with an addict. I have told him on countless occasions that if he doesn't try to give up it's over and he cuts down for a while but he says as long as he is holding down his job then what harm is it doing. He spends 350 euro a week on heroin. The house is full of tin-foil. He spends all his time in the bedroom goofing out. I have no-one to talk to about this and feel very isolated and depressed. Am beginning to hate the man i once loved. This drug is soul destroying. Can anyone give me any advice or the number of a support group.

Anonymous - 28/11/2007 17:51

If you go to (Centre for Sexual Addictions) you will get some contact names.

Anon - 29/11/2007 18:55

Clo, I really feel for you. But, you have to think about yourself and your kids. It is not up to you to find the help for your partner. Its totally up to him. In fact, you are a co-dependent and need help for yourself independently from him. Addictions are addictions (regardless of the substance being used). There is no quick fix. Methadone doesn't work either. It is just another choice. Do some hard talking with your partner about whether he really does want to give up. Then he has 2 choices. He gives up and stays at home or he doesn't give up and moves out. I know it sounds easier than it will be in reality but it is the only choices that you can give him for the sake of your kids. You owe it to them to safeguard them from his behaviour and from the possibility of them following in his footsteps. Wishing you the very best of luck though.

Ian(NPC69129) - 24/02/2008 10:33

SEX ADDICTION I was looking online and saw that people are having trouble with sex addiction. First I am a sex addict, given certain circumstances, usually stress or isolation I will masturbate a lot , search for sex partners on line, pay for sex. Even during full and rich relationships all of this can happen. Somewhere I know that I am afraid and looking for love, safety, belonging, home. Somewhere I know that way back as a child I was hurt in some way that probably was in realtionship with my mother. Somewhere at the root of all this is a gaping sense of loss, void, emptiness and somewhere I know that the addiction is running away and peace is in turning toward that emptiness. I fail as I am human and I wish you well fellow humans in your search for peace.

Anonymous - 29/04/2008 14:43

Hi Clo, If you live around the Dublin area, get in touch with Coolmine Therapeutic Community who run a parent and guardian support group for people just like yourself. You don't have to have anyone in treatment to join the group. They meet on a Thursday evening each week at the HQ 19 Lord Edward Street, Dublin 2, (01 679 4822). Alternatively, visit the Homeless Agencies website and download their directory of services - there is lots of info about drug related support groups.

cayly - 28/05/2009 01:14

im 18 and have a 2year old for my boyfriend i love him so much but he is a cocaine addict im so scared he is just going to kill himself soon and life for me would be unbearable im due our second baby soon too but his addiction seems to have gotten worse lately i think because he is nervous about work and the baby etc he only does it when he drinks dosent get cravings while hes sober midweek is fine but weekends are hell so nervewrecking is this addiction ?or is it something else? i dont ever want to give up but im not a strong person and its ruining me all i want to do is help he has admitted his problem and tried to quit but never lasted more then 3 months an was heartbreaking then everything was going so well im looking for somewere i can go to talk about this with others who have been or are in similar situations for support im in dublin can anyone help me please

Patrick_James - 10/09/2009 11:12

I've just noticed that a member needs hlep with sexual addiction or love addictoin there is a 12-Step oriented group in Dublin called SLAA (sex and love addicts anonymous) that might be useful their site is here.

dinky - 06/10/2009 09:56

Hi all, this is my first time on this site and it is so heart breaking to see the hopelessness caused by heroin in peoples lives.My 16 yr old son has been smoking cannabis and also spice over the last year at the moment he has stopped what worries me is his temper always an angry agressive child he is now worse,I dont know how to help,he talks to me about everything,I worry so much in case I say or do the wrong thing,my husband is great and we are very strong together,I have 4 more kids and its difficult when all your energy is concentrated on one,I dont know what to do with him

Nickname: to be used for all future posts.
Notification: Tick this box if you wish to receive e-mail notifications of further posts on this topic