Heroin use in Athy is a growing problem, according to an evidence-based South Western Drugs Taskforce report.
Speaking at last week’s Joint Policing Committee meeting in the town, Stephen Joyce of the SWDT, warned Athy not to ignore the issue and to face it straight on.
According to the inter-agency report, over the past three to five years heroin has had a “range of serious impacts” in the town, such as crime to fund habits and violence among drug dealers towards each other and towards those with drug debts.
Sgt Tom Harte of Athy Garda Station has observed this trend and the spike in crime on the ground, in particular petrol station robberies and intimidation incidents.
The report stated between 50 and 90 heroin users live in Athy, although it was noted that this figure could well be much higher. It was noted that heroin was mostly being smoked rather than injected and it was dealt locally by a small number of families living in Athy itself.
Mr Joyce said it costs roughly E45,000 for a heroin addict to maintain the habit and they need “instant cash”.
“The only way forward is to realise there is a problem, a big drug problem.
“People need some place in Kildare to get the treatment they need so we can get crime down,” said Athy community worker Ann Redmond, who is on the JPC committee.
“Heroin is affecting families in Athy terribly, everyone. We are going to have to deal with this.
“The drugs are here and the addicts live in our community. Gardai, the HSE, doctors, the council, a team of people coming together is the only way forward.
“Some people are turning a blind eye to this. You hear people crying over this and the fear in some housing estates is unbelievable.”
Ms Redmond said methadone needs to be administered by GPs to addicts.
“They need it. We need a clinic here in this town, simple as. The crime is frightening, especially coming up to Christmas. It [heroin] is in our town, let me reassure you.”
The main gaps in treatment services for heroin addicts were highlighted in the report, which included the lack of methadone treatment or needle exchanges in the town, and the lack of local drugs treatment programmes.