Fianna Fáil has been accused of using rhetoric that "only serves to demean people who use drugs" after the party posted a tweet criticising the Health Service Executive's new 'harm reduction' guidelines on cocaine use.

Merchants Quay Ireland, a charity that provides supports to homeless people and those who use drugs, have reacted angrily to the tweet which was posted this morning.

The tweet, which was deleted shortly after it was posted, stated: "Let me get this straight. There are 1,000,000 (that's ONE MILLION folks) on waiting lists and the HSE spend their time on campaigns like this? Perhaps @HSELive #YouAreOnCrack"

A spokesperson for Merchants Quay Ireland said: "This type of rhetoric only serves to demean people who use drugs and label them as being unworthy of help. Stigma can cost lives, and people with influence need to be particularly careful in how they talk about addiction."

But Fianna Fáil has moved to quell the criticism generated by the offending tweet about the HSE's #DoYouUseCocaine campaign. 

A party spokesperson explained: "This morning's tweet was posted by a junior member of staff and does not represent party policy. The error was quickly recognised and the offending tweet was deleted."

"Fianna Fáil supports any campaign that will help those suffering in addiction not to overdose and that encourage them to access detox programmes or services".

She added: "Drug addiction is a severe illness and all those in addiction or problem drug use should be given as much support as possible."

As well as criticism from Merchants Quay Ireland, some politicians also denounced its message.

Labour party Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin reacted: "This disgusting post has just been deleted from the @fiannafailparty facebook page. I genuinely have no words."

Independent Senator Lynn Ruane also rowed in and tweeted: "Using people who experience addiction 2 score points against FG is just pathetic. Pitting people against 1 another as if a harm reduction campaign 2 help save lives is somehow taking away from people on waiting lists. Every1 deserves health care & harm reduction is health care."

Fine Gael TD Noel Rock adopted a similar tone: "What a weird tweet. Harm reduction programmes reduce waiting lists and save lives. And did they actually end the tweet by saying maybe the HSE is on crack? 

Last October, Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators approved a submission to the National Drugs Strategy. The wide ranging document six-page document outlined a series of proposals and stressed "the need to develop proper treatment, rehabilitation, therapeutic and aftercare services."

Among the proposals in the document was the introduction of a "delayed criminalisation model where drug offences, currently defined for personal usage, are directed towards proper treatment and intervention services so healthcare is prioritised over a criminal justice and prison process that only reinforces addiction and deprivation."

The party stressed the important of more emphasis being placed on prevention and education in the new national drug strategy.

The party also advocated a trial period for a medically supervised injecting centre, the document that was signed off on by Dublin West TD Jack Chambers.

On 17 July, the HSE, in tandem with the Ana Liffey Drug Project, launched its #DoYouUseCocaine campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of cocaine use. It also aimed to educate people how to take cocaine safely to reduce negative health effects. 

The HSE said cocaine use and cocaine related deaths have increased, as Ireland now ranks fourth highest in EU for use of cocaine among young adults.

At the time Dr Eamon Keenan, the HSE's National Clinical lead for Addiction Services, drew parallels between the increase in cocaine use and a return to affluence. 

Dr Keenan said: "During the time of the Celtic Tiger we saw a steep rise in cocaine use. That dropped off after 2008. 

"But now they have become more affluent and there is more money available are turning back to use cocaine and that is why we are seeing the increase in the number of people who are presenting for cocaine misuse."

In a follow up tweet to this morning's offending tweet, Fianna Fáil said. "We are not saying it’s wrong. It's the formulaic PR look of the campaign. How much thought did the HSE put in to this campaign?"