The Joint Policing Committee (JPC)’s Crime Prevention and Personal Safety subcommittee has recommended that Galway County Council and local gardaí examine the possibility of introducing random drug tests in schools.
The suggestion was made after hearing evidence from a Health Service Executive (HSE) clinical specialist in addiction. Joe Treacy described the drug problem in Galway as the worst he had seen in his 28 years working in addiction services in Ireland, the UK and Australia.
“It’s not snowing in Galway, there is a blizzard”, he told the committee.
Recent screenings of drug users in the county revealed cocaine with a potency of up to 94% and a strain of Moroccan cannabis with previously unseen levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the main psychoactive compound in the drug, Treacy said.
Chairperson of the subcommittee, Cllr Michael Maher (Fine Gael), believes there is an appetite amongst teaching staff and parents to tackle this issue, but explained that random drug tests couldn’t be introduced into schools without the cooperation of school principals and parents. However, plans are afoot for a pilot drug testing programme through the Galway Roscommon Education Training Board (GRETB).
“This is something that we could start through GRETB on a pilot basis and then bring it to Education and Training Board Ireland and see could we make this into a national thing,” he said.
“I’m sure that hundreds of parents out there would not mind their children being tested for drugs. I think 95% of parents would allow this to go ahead”.
However, Cllr James Charity (Independent) said any move to introduce random drug tests in schools would be unconstitutional.
“It is an infringement on civil liberties. There is an assumption that someone is guilty until proven innocent. If we start going into schools, where do you stop? Do we start going into workplaces?”, he asked.
Addressing the extent of the drug problem Mr Treacy said: “If we drug tested everybody on a Monday morning, we would have a lot of red faces. It is so easy to access drugs at the moment. I don’t know of any village or small townland that drugs have not invaded. It costs just €15–20 for a screening test.”
“The level of criminality, the level of drug abuse, it’s very shocking. There will be a lost generation if we don’t engage with this as quickly as possible. The proliferation and the availability of drugs has never been as bad.”
Last month, thousands marched through Drogheda to take back control from drug gangs.
Cocaine drug testing
Cocaine can be detected in urine, saliva, hair and nail clipping samples. The tests available to determine cocaine use vary in their windows of detection so recent or chronic use can be established.
Urine drug testing is the quickest way to establish whether someone is misusing cocaine and can provide an immediate result. Oral fluid drug testing is another ‘narrow-window’ form of testing to determine recent cocaine use. Hair drug testing provides a more comprehensive overview and can determine a history of drug intake for up to 12 months. Nail drug testing can give an overview of up to 6 months.