New Research: A Capture-Recapture Study to Estimate the Prevalence of Problem-Opiate Use in Ireland (2015 – 2019)

A research project by University College Cork, commissioned by the Health Research Board


Opiate use is a major problem in Ireland. Therefore, it is important for government and support agencies to know how many people are impacted by the negative effects of opiates on a regular basis. The most recent figures from 2014 estimate that there are between 18,720 – 21,454 problematic opiate users in Ireland. 

The Health Research Board (HRB) has commissioned a team from the School of Public Health in University College Cork (UCC) to estimate how many people used opiates in Ireland between 2015 – 2019. To get the numbers, we’ll use information from the methadone prescribers and the Irish probation Service.

Why is this Research Important?

This research will provide information to services who support people who use drugs. It will also help inform support policy development in Ireland. This project is a continuation of work conducted over the last 20 years and will allow us to look at changes in opiate use in Ireland over time. This will help the government and support agencies to predict where services will be needed in the future.


The overall aim of this project is to provide an up-to-date estimate of how many people use opiates in Ireland between 2015 – 2019.


We will be using a type of indirect statistics to conduct this research as we know it will not be possible to count all people who use opiates. These methods are known as the “capture-recapture method” and the “multiple indicator method”. We will access the information from the National Drug Treatment Centre and the Irish Probation Service. Data from the HRB’s National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS) will be used for the multiple indicator method and to validate estimates from the capture recapture method. We will also examine data from the HRB’s National Drug-Related Deaths Index (NDRDI).

Personal data such as name, date of birth, gender, address and details about drug use will be collected from various agencies (listed above). This is to make sure the same person is not counted twice. No other information about a person’s drug use will be collected. Once the data are received and checked they will be fully anonymised and not shared with any third parties.

Ethical Approval, Consent Declaration and Data Protection

It is really important that we can count everybody that links with the National Drug Treatment Centre and the Probation Services. Only by counting every person that access support for their opiate use, we can inform services and policies to respond to their needs. We will check personal details to make sure that we are not counting the same person twice and anonymise the data immediately after that.

This research has received ethical approval from the Clinical Research Ethics Committee of the Cork Teaching Hospitals and a consent declaration approved by the Health Research Consent Declaration Committee (HRCDC). This approval means that we don’t have to contact every single person included in the study for individual consent.

For More Information

For further information on personal data processing rights, please contact UCC’s Data Protection Officer by email at gdpr@ucc.ie.

To learn more about this study please contact the Research Support Officer for this project - Dr Michael Hanrahan, michael.hanrahan@ucc.ie


This project is funded by the Health Research Board.


Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind (IGDB)

An evaluation of the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind (IGDB) Assistance Dogs programme for families of children with Autism in Ireland

Animal assisted therapy (AAT) and the use of assistance dogs (service dogs) has received growing attention as a means of aiding children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  The Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind launched the first assistance dogs programme for familites of children with autism in Ireland in 2005.  Assistance dogs provide an environmental safety mechanism whereby the dog is trained to prevent a child from ‘bolting’, and will alert parents to threats in the home and community environment.  Other benefits of assistance dogs include improved social interactions and psychological well-being. There is now increased interest in establishing the efficacy of assistance dogs programmes. 

Professor Ivan Perry and Dr. Louise Burgoyne are undertaking a study with the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind (IGDB) looking at the impact of their Assistance Dogs programme on families of children with Autism.  

Project Aim

To evaluate the impact of having an assistance dog on the quality of life of parents/guardians and families with children who have autism.

Project Objectives

  1. Measure quality of life indicators in parents/guardians with ASD who have an assistance dog (treatment) and in parents/guardians of children with ASD who are on the waiting list for an assistance dog (control).
  2. Measure safety from environmental hazards in the child with ASD in families who have an assistance dog (treatment) and in families who are on the waiting list (control).
  3. Compare quality of life and environmental indicators in treatment and control groups.
  4. Measure essential family demographics: over all learning level of child with ASD and any specific programmes, current treatments/interventions.
  5. Explore with parents, the impacts of having an assistance dog on sociability and communication skills in children
  6. Explore the impact of having an assistance dog on day to day family life.

School of Public Health

Scoil na Sláinte Poiblí

4th Floor, Western Gateway Building, Western Road,