Speaking at the launch of a report profiling more than 300 drug users who used services at the centre in Dublin, Mr Geoghegan said 7 per cent of people attending needle exchange were using steroids, used to enhance performance and image.
For the majority, steroids were the only drugs they were using and all users were men.
Steroid use was on the increase, Mr Geoghegan said, but had not been recognised by the national drug strategy. Because it is a “furtive area”, steroid users were not inclined to go to their GP, so needle-exchange services were “ideal” to engage with them. “A lot of steroid users don’t identify themselves as drug users . . . a lot of steroid users would still be in employment and working, so we need to have services that are at the weekend and in the evening if we are going to capture this client group,” he said.
The report found 167 drug users were receiving methadone prescribed by GPs, but only one was using it as a sole drug. The remainder were using it with other drugs, chiefly heroin.
Mr Geoghegan said the positive side was methadone users were using fewer illicit drugs and causing themselves less potential harm. He said there was concern that with the economic downturn methadone services were just about the provision of methadone, and ancillary supports had “dropped away”.
Mr Geoghegan also said the barrier to obtaining detoxification and rehabilitation treatment in Ireland was too high and a crisis detoxification centre was needed in Dublin to help polydrug users.
The report, prepared by researcher Ciarán Jennings on behalf of Merchants Quay Ireland, found 125 of those who took part in the survey had tested positive for hepatitis C, but only 18 were in treatment.