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Cocaine overtakes opiates to become Ireland's second-most commonly used illicit drug

The findings were outlined in the EU’s drugs agency’s annual report today.

Image: Shutterstock/DedMityay

IRELAND CONTINUES TO have the joint-third highest number of drug-related deaths in Europe, according to a new annual report by the EU’s drugs agency.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) also reports that cocaine has now become the second-most commonly used illicit drug in Ireland.

The agency has raised concerns about record seizures of cocaine across the continent in 2018.

The report also warns that innovations made during the Covid-19 pandemic could have long-term implications for law enforcement agencies.

EMCDDA Director Alexis Goosdeel noted that the pandemic has had an immediate, disruptive impact on drug use, supply and services and has highlighted the needs of drug users.

“While we will need to assess the long-term impact of the pandemic, in the short-term we already see that large-scale drug trafficking has been largely unaffected and digitally enabled drug markets have become more popular,” he said.

“As the economic repercussions of the crisis take effect, some in our communities may become more vulnerable to drug problems and drug market involvement, putting greater pressure on our already stretched services.”

Seizures of cocaine across Europe have now reached an all-time high in 2018 and the continent is now seeing an “unprecedented level” of the drug’s availability, the agency warns.

According to the report, over 181 tonnes of cocaine were seized in 2018, the latest year for which data is available – up from the previous record of 138 tonnes in 2017.

It also noted that although purity of the drug has increased in recent years, the retail price of the drug across the continent has remained stable.

“Considered along with the seizure data, these indicators suggest that cocaine availability in Europe is at an unprecedented level,” the report says.

In an Ireland-specific briefing on the report, the Health Research Board notes that cocaine has become the second most-common problem drug in Ireland, after previously ranking third behind opioids and cannabis between 2015 and 2018.

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Crack cocaine accounted for 14.3% of all cases treated for cocaine as a main problem last year, compared to 11.3% of cases in 2018.

Meanwhile, cannabis was the most common main problem for all cases (23.5%) and new cases (37.8%) entering drug treatment programmes last year. 

Minister of State for the National Drugs Strategy, Frank Feighan said that the report highlights the serious challenges created by illicit drugs and their potency.

“As Minister with responsibility for the National Drug Strategy I am committed to strengthening early harm reduction responses to current and emerging trends and patterns of drug use in Ireland,” he added.

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