Big rise in problem cocaine use

Latest figures from Health Research Board
  • Deborah Condon

The number of cases presenting for cocaine treatment in Ireland rose significantly between 2013 and 2019, the latest figures from the Health Research Board (HRB) have shown.

According to the figures, cocaine has now overtaken cannabis as the second most common drug that people enter treatment for, with opioids remaining the most common.

Between 2013 and 2019, a total of 10,664 cases were treated for problem drug use, a slight increase on 2018's figure of 10,274

Some 2,560 (24%) were treated for problem cocaine use in 2019, more than three times the number of cases reported in 2013 (708 cases).

Men accounted for eight in 10 cases involving cocaine every year since 2013, and in 2019, three in 10 cocaine cases were in paid employment.

Among cases who mixed drugs, the most common drugs taken with cocaine were alcohol, followed by cannabis and benzodiazepines.

The HRB also noted an increase in cases treated for crack cocaine, with 367 cases in 2019 compared to 255 in 2018.

"In general, those seeking treatment for cocaine are male, 30 years of age, in paid employment and most likely to use alcohol as an additional drug.

"However, a rise in reporting of crack cocaine is a worrying trend where cases with chronic problem drug use, mix crack cocaine with opioids. These cases are more likely to be unemployed and homeless. It is important that this distinction is noted in order to monitor trends and tailor treatments accordingly," commented HRB research officer, Dr Anne Marie Carew.

Other key findings from the HRB include:
-Opioids, mainly heroin, continue to be the most common main problem drug reported in Ireland, accounting for 39% of cases in 2019. However, this is down from 51% in 2013
-Cannabis was the third most common drug people sought treatment for, accounting for just over 23% in 2019, down from 29% in 2013
-Benzodiazepines were the fourth most common problem drug, accounting for around 10% of cases ever year from 2013 to 2019.

Overall, men accounted for seven in 10 cases every year since 2013 and the majority were unemployed.

The number of homeless cases seeking treatment rose from 581 in 2013 to 1,173 in 2019.

The HRB pointed that cases relate to treatment episodes and not to individual people. This means that the same person could be counted more than once in the same calendar year if they had more than one treatment episode that year.

The full figures from the HRB can be viewed here.


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