Drug and alcohol addiction in Ireland has gone beyond crisis point says the director of the Rutland Centre, a rehabilitation unit for substance and alcohol abuse.

At a seminar held in Dublin's Milltown Institute this evening, experts who work with people in addiction and recovery spoke about Ireland’s serious problem with alcohol and substance abuse, evident in the number of young people in trouble, a health service struggling to cope and a criminal justice system which is overloaded.

We are a nation in denial about the extent of this problem, says Stephen Rowen, Director of the Rutland Centre, who says that the Gardaí, family therapists and teachers nationwide have all voiced concerns,

We’re already in crisis...the problem is extremely bad.

In the 1990s alcohol consumption here rose by almost fifty per cent. Irish teenagers have the second highest level of binge drinking in Europe, and Ireland has the highest consumption of ecstasy and amphetamines.

The issue of underage drinkers is also worrying, says Ivor Callelly, Minister of State at the Department of Health, as the pattern is

Not alone just abusing alcohol, but...going onto drugs and hard drugs.

The message from tonight’s event is that government initiatives and strategies alone are not enough to address Ireland’s addiction problem. Something entirely different is required,

A complete change in consciousness about drug and alcohol abuse.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 1 October 2002. The reporter is Bernard McMullan.