Thursday, 28 November 1968
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Corish: asked the Minister for Health the number of known drug addicts in this country; if he has any estimate of the number of addicts; and what is being done by his Department to assist drug addicts to be cured.
Dr. Hillery: In the year 1966— the most recent year for which full information is available—fifty-nine persons were admitted to psychiatric hospitals for treatment for drug addiction. Many of these were cases of addiction to barbiturates and amphetamines. There are no figures available as to the total number of drug addicts, but the whole problem of drug abuse is kept continually under review.
As I indicated in a recent reply, fifty-nine persons were admitted to psychiatric hospitals in 1966 for treatment for drug addiction. Many of these were cases of addiction to barbiturates and amphetamines. There are no figures available as to the total number of drug addicts but the whole  problem of drug abuse is kept continually under review. I see no special advantage in having a register of drug addicts and I think that the existence of such a register could deter persons with drug problems from seeking medical advice.
Dr. O'Connell: Could the Minister say why he does not consider it necessary to compile an official register of drug addicts when it is realised that drug addicts take advantage of every subterfuge to try to get prescriptions from doctors? If the register were available this would be of tremendous help even to the drug addicts in getting treatment and not necessarily in a psychiatric hospital.
Dr. Hillery: The information for 1967 is being extracted and will be available. On the question of a register it was felt that people generally would not like to have their names and addresses and other details about them in a register somewhere and might not therefore come in for treatment.
Dr. O'Connell: The Minister must be aware that records in regard to people who are ill are kept somewhere and there would be no disadvantage in their being kept in a special register in the Department of Health. They are being kept in hospitals at the moment. It would enable these people to avail of treatment from medical practitioners and not use other means, such as the forging of prescriptions, which is happening at the present time.
Dr. Hillery: There is contact with the doctors giving hospital treatment, and this is the way the Minister gets the information. While I can see the point about the register and the previous idea in regards to tuberculosis patients, it is not what we think that counts; it is the person whose name is to be put on the register whose opinion counts, and if this would deter him from seeking treatment it would be a bad idea.
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