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€200 million spent a year: How Ireland's recreational drug users are keeping the cartels in business

It is estimated that there are at least 20 million drug deals annually.

A screengrab from Safer Blanch's video.
A screengrab from Safer Blanch's video.
Image: Safer Blanch/YouTube

IRISH RECREATIONAL DRUG users are spending around €200 million each year on drugs, according to estimates by the authors of a new report.

A new campaign launched to highlight the real harm done by those who sporadically buy drugs claims that around 20 million separate drugs deals are done each year for those who would not be categorised as being ‘drug dependent’.

Think Before You Buy, the campaign, is a result of a report and study carried out by Safer Blanchardstown on the very real issues surrounding drug-debt intimidation in west Dublin and the effects it is having on those communities affected.

The report’s author Philip Jennings of Safer Blanchardstown explained that the occasional use of illegal drugs is bringing with it intimidation and violent attacks on innocent people.

He explained: “Drugs and drug debt intimidation are not just Dublin-wide issues, they have harmful effects on communities in every corner of Ireland and in every country across the globe.

We must start to look at drug debt intimidation as a behaviour that develops, like any behaviour, along a continuum. If we see these behaviours as occurring at different stages but having an interconnected effect between higher and lower orders, linked interventions could be developed to tackle particular behaviours.

“This will have the overall effect of reducing the number of individuals, and the attraction to become, involved in anti-social behaviour, drugs misuse, drug-related crime and drug-debt intimidation.”

Jennings worked out how many recreational drug users there are in Ireland (north and south) by working from statistics gathered by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol (NACDA).

In its 2016 study, it found that 9% of those aged 15-64 had tried drugs in the last week. Jennings, using latest population figures, determined that there are 369,000 people who used drugs recreationally.

The money spent was calculated by using what Jennings described as a “very conservative” estimate spend of €10 per person. The total for the year worked out at €192 but Jennings himself said he believes that the real cost is multiples of that figure.

Safer Blanchardstown is now rolling out a national campaign to show the harm even a one-off purchase of drugs can do.

They have created a video which is to be shown in cinemas and before football, rugby and GAA matches. It will also have a large social media presence.

Source: Safer Blanchardstown/YouTube

Gardaí have also given support to the project.

Inspector Tony Twomey started his career in Dublin’s Kevin Street as the heroin epidemic swept the capital.

He said he had witnessed first-hand the consequences drugs had on communities.

“The dealers’ target audience was vulnerable youths in then-socially deprived areas. Those addicts turned to crime and communities turned to vigilantism to regain control of communities.

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“It’s very much different today. Recreational drug has transcended all levels of society but its impact on communities has remained the same, the target audience remains the same.”

Jennings said there is a definite link between casual or recreational drug use and serious violence.

That’s what drug gangs are fighting over – recreational drug users.

“People need to ask themselves is this the kind of society they want. If so, carry on using drugs recreationally. But if they do, they can’t blame gardaí, the HSE, the local authorities or addiction services [for drug-related violence].”

Jennings said there are two “distinct end user groups” in the drugs market – regular users and recreational users.

He said daily users are “a dependable, steady source of income for the supplier”. However, he added that much of the drug trade’s money is made through recreational users at the weekend.

“It is this ‘real money’ that attracts the serious violence and intimidation which is affecting communities right across the country.

This is why it is essential to draw attention to the link between recreational use of drugs, the vast amounts of money this generates, criminal activity and drug debt intimidation.

Read: People warned that small weed or cocaine habits are fuelling violent crime >

Read: Pope Francis orders ban on sale of cigarettes in the Vatican >

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