WITH the growth of heroin use in Limerick, the amount of drug related litter on the city’s streets is also on the rise.
The problem has become so prevalent that the handling of discarded needles and other drug paraphernalia formed the basis of a recent training programme in the city.
The special training session, organised by the HSE Drug and Alcohol Service, the Mid West Regional Drugs Task Force and the Ana Liffey Drug project, was attended by more than 50 staff members of Limerick City Council, Limerick Civic Trust, Novas Initiatives and the Gardaí.
A child was almost jabbed by a used needle on O’Curry Street after falling while out playing. The Limerick Post subsequently found syringes and other paraphernalia scattered across the street and shoved into a drain pipe.
According to Sinn Féin city councillor Maurice Quinlivan, there are regular complaints about needles and other drug paraphernalia littering city centre areas and this causes deep fear among local residents. He says it’s clear that urgent action is needed following a number of incidents where children came in contact with discarded needles.
“Thankfully, drug related litter does not affect all of our communities. However, for those areas that do suffer, the impacts are significant. Not only does drug litter create a very real fear of infection and disease, it also acts as a stark reminder of the wider harm caused by the misuse of drugs,” he said.
Litter related to drug use can cover a range of materials including syringes, foil, swabs, spoons, plastic bottles and cans. It also includes inappropriately discarded prescription and over-the-counter medication. Although the public health risk from drug litter is often regarded as small, discarded needles can be infected with active Hepatitis B or C Virus.
“Workers responsible for cleaning or grounds maintenance, where they may come into contact with discarded needles, need to be properly trained and equipped. While the actual risk to health may be low, it is clear that the public perceives those risks to be far higher,” said Quinlivan.
“The training provided in recent weeks is very welcome. We now have a number of people who are trained and able to collect and dispose of drugs-related litter safely and hopefully this will have a big impact on the issue in Limerick. The long term goal remains to educate local people and communities about drug-related litter and how to deal with it,” he said.