highlights extent of Irish cocaine problem
Irish Times 06/07/2005
By Joe Humphreys
Problems arising from cocaine use are particularly
acute in inner-city Dublin, Cork and the north-east,
a new study on the impact of the drug in Ireland
The study, compiled by a research team at Cluain
Mhuire drug-treatment centre in Blackrock, Co Dublin,
identified deficiencies in both the quantity and
quality of treatment facilities.
It is noted that "frequently untrained or insufficiently
trained staff" were delivering "an assorted mix
of interventions, some of unproven benefit". The
report is published today along with the deliberations
of an Oireachtas committee which commissioned the
study amid heightened concern about a "striking
increase" in the abuse of cocaine in Ireland.
In its report the Joint Committee on Arts, Sport,
Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs
called for a more intensive drug-awareness campaign
and increased resources for treatment services.
It added that it would ask the Minister of State
with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy,
Noel Ahern, to appear before the committee "with
a view to the speedy implementation of the recommendations".
The report said the committee members were "very
conscious of the resource implications involved…But
this is a very unique situation: the treatment of
cocaine addiction comes under the umbrella of the
mental health services - the most consistently underfunded
area of health expenditure where the percentage
of the total has fallen in recent years".
Committee chairwoman Cecilia Deaveney TD (FF) said
she believed the problem could be handled most effectively
in rural areas by creating substance abuse clinics
which treated not just drug abuse but eating disorders
and other addictions.
In their study Cluain Mhuire clinical director Dr
Siobhan Barry and senior clinical psychologist Elizabeth
Lawlor surveyed statutory drug-treatment services,
along with a sample of voluntary and private treatment
providers, to evaluate the extent of cocaine use
and the availability of treatment options.
"Statutory service providers indicated that the
largest numbers of those with a primary cocaine
problem were in inner city Dublin and its immediate
environs… A much lesser difficulty in relation to
cocaine use was reported in the greater Dublin area
commuter belt, and this lessened the farther away
from Dublin one travelled. In these settings alcohol,
cannabis, ecstasy and amphetamines tended to be
the primary problem substance area. A considerable
primary cocaine problem was reported, however, in
the northeast and in the Cork area".
The study noted cocaine worth more than 500 million
euros had been seized by gardai between 1995 and
2004, and this was believed to represent just one-tenth
of the street market. It further cited a high level
of ignorance about the effects of cocaine among
"Suicide is the cause of death in up to 10 per cent
of cocaine related deaths. Nevertheless there has
been the perception that cocaine is a safe drug,
and that it improves sports performance, notwithstanding
the available evidence disproving this." Citing
a deficiency in treatment options, the researchers
said "tiered interventions" should be offered to
problem cocaine users. "Residential (therapeutic
community style) aftercare programmes that offer
places of a number of months' duration should be
available to those who are at particular risk of
relapse." The publication of the report coincides
with the launch this week of a new National Drugs
Awareness Campaign aimed at highlighting the danger
of mixing cocaine and alcohol.