Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cocaine usage continues to rise, report finds

One in 20 Irish people and almost one in 10 young people has taken cocaine, a major all-Ireland study of the use of the drug has established.

Men are twice as likely to use cocaine as women and regular and even daily use of the drug is increasing, according to the drug prevalence study carried out for the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD).

North Dublin, where almost 16 per cent of young people reported use of the drug, emerges as the country’s cocaine blackspot, but prevalence rates are rising steeply throughout the country.

Use of the drug by 15-34-year-olds has risen five-fold in the north-eastern counties over the past five years, and more than three-fold in the midlands and the west.

The vast majority of cocaine users start taking their drug in their early twenties and the most popular means of obtaining it is from friends and family, the study finds.

One in four people said they knew someone who took cocaine, compared to 14 per cent in the last all-Ireland survey carried out in 2002/03.

The study reveals that cocaine users are taking the drug more often, with one-in-four users snorting the drug once a week and 7 per cent reporting daily use. No-one reported daily use in the earlier survey.

Overall lifetime use now stands at 5.3 per cent, up from 3 per cent in the last survey. Some 1.7 per cent of respondents reported using the drug in the previous year, up from 1.1 per cent, and 0.5 per cent said they had taken cocaine in the previous month, up from 0.3 per cent.

“While these figures are of concern, we should not lose sight of the fact that they are reasonably low and that any perception that ‘everyone is at it’ is far from the true situation,” commented Minister of State with responsibility for drugs strategy, John Curran.

The survey also shows that cocaine use varies greatly between different regions, with the highest rates recorded in the more densely populated areas in the east of the country, roughly from Louth to Cork. “The challenge is to ensure that the lower rates are kept at such levels while the problem is tackled comprehensively in the areas of higher use.

Mr Curran said the risks attached to cocaine use were often ignored or underestimated by users. “Cocaine use is linked to heart conditions, strokes and to various other physical complaints that vary depending on the route of administration of the drug. Frequent (or long-term) use of cocaine can also have a powerful effect on the user’s mental health, through depression, anxiety, agitation, compulsive behaviour and paranoia.”

He defended the efforts being made to tackle drug misuse, pointing out that the over €61 million was allocated to the area in last week’s Estimates. The Government is spending over €200 million on measures aimed directly at problem drug use, he said.

Almost 7,000 people were surveyed north and south for the study, which was carried out between October 2006 and May 2007.
source: © 2008 irishtimes.com

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