Alarming study on rural drug use no surprise to Limerick services

The Vanaliffey van launched by Ana Liffey.

SUPPORT workers with a Limerick-based outreach addiction service say they are not surprised by a new study which points to increasing heavy drug and alcohol use among famers and rural dwellers.

The recently published study by Dublin City University (DCU) has revealed that almost one in three – 29 per cent – of rural farmers are drinking to dangerous levels and one in 20 are using drugs in a way that presents health risks.

The Ana Liffey Project, based on the Dock Road in Limerick City, runs an outreach service for counties Limerick, Clare, and North Tipperary. Team leader Rachel O’Donoghue says the team members are well aware of the problems in rural areas.

With 300 interventions in County Limerick alone since the outreach van took to the road in 2022, Rachel says the study from DCU is “no surprise”.

Ana Liffey has interacted with 80 clients in the county area since last year.

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“Addiction doesn’t differentiate between people. It is a problem for rural dwellers as well as city dwellers, which is why we have launched the outreach services,” she says.

“It was clear from interactions with the service that there were many people outside of the city area with problems who want to link in with us but couldn’t, so we decided to take the service out to them.”

The service team leader said that the nature of the drugs being used can differ from one area to another but both city and rural people in addiction are frequently poly-drug users.

“There is a very definite city problem with crack cocaine and heroin but a lot of the time people are using other drugs as well and there is cross-addiction.

“In the county, we are finding people using powder cocaine and heroin and using alcohol as well.”

The ‘Vanaliffey’ service was launched last year with a grant from the JP McManus fund, while the HSE have funded extra staff to run the outreach service.

Funding has also been made available to Ana Liffey through the HSE and philanthropic organisation Ignite for intervention and harm reduction work.

In addition, Ana Liffey, in co-operation with Gardaí and the HSE has launched the Law Engagement and Assisted Recovery (LEAR) project in which clients come to the service through Garda referral.

Ms O’Donoghue said that isolation, loneliness, poverty, and lack of services for people are all issues for both city and rural dwellers.

“There is a huge need out there and drugs are increasingly available to people in every area. There are people who have become homeless and are on the streets but this is not the only profile of a drug user. The reality covers far more people than that stereotype,” she said.