What is DAMIS?
DAMIS (Drug and Alcohol Monitoring and Information System) is an “early warning system” which government organisations use to find out about emerging trends in drug misuse, so we can act quickly and provide relevant information or advice to those who misuse drugs.
The kind of information DAMIS collects includes:
- A sudden increase in a particular drug being misused
- Drugs being misused in new ways
- New drugs becoming available (for example new legal highs)
- Contaminated drugs available in Northern Ireland
The Public Health Agency coordinates DAMIS with support from the lead partners: the Department for Health and Social Services and Public Safety, the Department of Justice and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland-wide surveys are carried out periodically to find out what drugs people are using and how much alcohol they are drinking. This information helps organisations decide the priority actions required to reduce drug misuse or drug-related harm. However, these surveys are not designed to gather localised information on drugs being used by small numbers of people, or information on urgent issues such as contaminated drugs. This is what DAMIS is for. It can identify trends and issues at an early stage and warn people about them quickly.
The information which DAMIS receives usually comes from local drug and alcohol support organisations, or from people who misuse or have misused substances themselves. These people may have contact with a wide range of individuals who misuse substances and are in an ideal position to tell us what is happening in their local area as soon as it happens. While DAMIS can be used to alert people to emerging risks around alcohol as well as drugs, so far, all DAMIS alerts have focussed on drugs.
DAMIS is confidential – this means that when providing information you should not identify individuals or give any personal details although however general information such as where the drugs are being used, and the gender and age of users is useful as it can help inform whether any follow up information or advice should be targeted at particular sections of the population and/or region.
Anyone can send information to DAMIS by emailing email@example.com
What happens to information I send to DAMIS?
The DAMIS (PHA) co-ordinator records the information and agrees the “level” of the information and what kind of response is needed with the coordinators from the DHSSPS, PSNI and the Department of Justice.
A level one response will be to record the information which may be used to inform policy and practice. More information may also be sought.
A level two response means that the information will be circulated to everyone on the DAMIS database, in either an alert or a bulletin. We ask everyone on the database to pass the information on as appropriate.
Alert – an alert is an email sent quickly (usually within 24 hours of receiving information) warning people of a specific risk. An alert may be sent when we still have limited evidence, but the need to inform people of a possible risk outweighs the need to collect more evidence.
Bulletin – if we need more information on an issue, a request for information is sent to the DAMIS network. Information received can then be pulled together and sent out as a bulletin. This takes longer than an alert to produce, but can provide a fuller picture of the Northern Ireland situation.
A level three response means that a formal warning letter is issued through Chief Medical Officer procedures, and consideration is given to information/awareness raising with the public.
Who gets information from DAMIS?
Information is sent out to everyone on the DAMIS database – primarily drug and alcohol support organisations who work in the community and can get the information out to both those who work in the drug sector and those at greatest risk. It also includes people working in the areas of mental health and social care. Some organisations who work with young people are also signed up to DAMIS. However, as much of the information DAMIS circulates is harm reduction information aimed at adults already using drugs, we ask people to exercise caution if passing DAMIS information on to young people. At the start of 2016, there were around 300 individuals on the DAMIS database.
Every 6 months, the PHA circulate to all DAMIS members a report showing all reports received by DAMIS, and all information DAMIS has circulated.
If you come into contact with people who misuse drugs or alcohol, either through your work or in your own life, and think it would be useful for you to be on the DAMIS database, you can let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
To access the latest ‘DAMIS Update report’ click here