Cocaine use continues to rise

  • Deborah Condon

The number of people using cocaine in Ireland is on the increase and the most common way of obtaining the drug is through family and friends, new research has shown.

According to the latest bulletin from the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD), the number of people who have ever used cocaine has risen from 3% of the population in 2002/03 to 5.3% in 2006/07.

Altogether, almost half (49%) of users obtained the drug through family and friends, compared to 33% in 2002/03. Among women, this figure jumped from 24% in 2002/03 to 70% in 2006/07.

Cocaine powder accounted for the majority of cocaine use. Crack cocaine use was described as very limited.

The highest rate of cocaine use was seen among young adults, aged 15-34, and males were bigger users of the drug than females. The average age that respondents reported they had first used cocaine powder was 22.

Among current cocaine users, 68% said they took the drug less than once a week. However one in four (25%) said they used it at least once a week. All current cocaine powder users reported ‘snorting’ the drug.

The bulletin noted that in 2002/03, no current users of the drug reported daily cocaine use. However in 2006/07, 7% of current users said they used cocaine on a daily basis.

Almost two in three recent cocaine users said it was ‘very easy’ or ‘fairly easy’ to obtain the drug within a 24-hour period.

Among those who had used cocaine but given up, the most common reason for this was ‘health concerns’, with 28% giving this as their main reason for quitting.

Overall, 23% of people said they personally knew someone who takes cocaine, compared to 14% in 2002/03.

“This report highlights the significant changes which have occurred since the first survey in 2002/3 and confirms that cocaine use is a nationwide problem. There is therefore a need for a sustained commitment to tackle the problem in the years ahead,” commented Dr Des Corrigan, NACD chairperson.

He said that that the results from this prevalence survey show the need to continue to monitor changes in patterns of drug use among the general population.

“Continued use of this type of survey is essential in picking up trends over time. Such general population surveys, which give a snapshot in time of what is happening in relation to drug use in the lives of ordinary households, can only realistically be conducted every four years or so,” he added.

Launching the report, John Curran, Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, said that apart from damaging themselves, ‘users cause social and economic harm to their families and to the communities that bear the brunt of the behaviour and criminal activity associated with the supply and use of cocaine’.

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