National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol

The NACDA was established in response to the drug problem to assist in our continued need to improve our knowledge and understanding of problem drug use.

The goal of the NACDA is to advise the Government on problem drug use in Ireland in relation to prevalence, prevention consequences and treatment based on our analysis and interpretation of research findings.

NACD says that services for cocaine users need to become more visible

ISSUE DATE: Thursday, 8 March 2007

All indicators show cocaine use is continuing to increase across all sections of society and all areas of the country

The National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) has today (Thursday, 8 March) said that services for cocaine users need to become more visible. Speaking at the launch of An Overview of Cocaine Use in Ireland II, NACD Chairperson, Dr Des Corrigan, said that all the indicators point to a continued increase in cocaine use and that this cocaine use crosses all sections of Irish society. However, whilst the impact is very much experienced nationwide, some communities are disproportionately affected.

An Overview of Cocaine Use in Ireland II looks at cocaine use in relation to its prevalence, prevention and treatment, as well as the consequences of its use in Ireland. The report was prepared jointly by the NACD and the National Drugs Strategy Team (NDST) on foot of a request from Government in late 2005, concerned with the growth of cocaine abuse in all sections of Irish society.

The increasing prevalence of cocaine in Ireland was revealed through examination of a range of indicators:

  • Drug treatment data show the numbers seeking treatment for cocaine use have increased exponentially between 1998 and 2003, with a three-fold increase in those with cocaine as the primary problem and a four-fold increase in those with cocaine as the secondary problem drug.
  • Data from An Garda Síochána show an increase in the number of cocaine-related offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) from 180 in 2000 to 1,224 in 2005.
  • Both Garda and Customs & Excise data show an increase in the number of cocaine seizures. The former show an increase from 206 in 2000 to 968 in 2005. The latter show an increase from 12 in 2000 to 67 in 2004.
  • Data from the Medical Bureau of Road Safety, based on road safety tests, also indicate an increase in cocaine positive tests up to 2005.
  • Hospital In-Patient Enquiry Data (HIPE) data shows that the number of incidences of cocaine-related diagnosis in hospitals increased from 54 in 2000 to 222 in 2004.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Noel Ahern TD, Minister with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, stated that the risks associated with cocaine use are extremely high:

“The physical and mental health problems that arise from the use of cocaine are alarming. Cocaine is particularly dangerous when combined with alcohol and other substances and these real dangers associated with its use have been highlighted in this report”.

Minister Ahern pointed out that the report highlights the fact that cocaine use is predominantly a young adult phenomenon affecting mostly those aged between 15 and 34.

“It is perceived that there is a significant hidden population of so called ‘recreational cocaine users’ who do not see themselves as having a problem. However, many of these are likely to develop health problems in the longer term and it is important to get credible and unambiguous health promotion and harm reduction messages to this group.

“At the same time, we must emphasise that treatment is available and is effective. It is clear that one of the challenges facing service providers is to persuade cocaine users to avail of treatment, while the continued upskilling of personnel to meet the needs of cocaine users is also important,”

Minister Ahern said. He further indicated that he has already funded a pilot training initiative in that regard.

Another trend highlighted by this report, according to the Chairperson of the NACD Dr Des Corrigan, is that many problem heroin users are also using cocaine, and that polydrug use is now common among drug-users. He indicated that it is difficult to determine at this stage whether there has been a significant increase nationally in drug misuse.

“Our most recent comprehensive figures for the misuse of drugs come from the all island Drug Prevalence Survey 2002/2003. Fieldwork for the second such survey is currently in progress and will be completed in April, with first reports becoming available in the autumn”.

Dr Corrigan also indicated that the findings on cocaine use in this report were very much in line with the trends identified in a 2003 NACD report on cocaine use:

“What makes this report different to 2003 is the extent of information available to us on the impact of cocaine in the community. Communities are experiencing the consequences in terms of sharp increases in public disturbance, noise, intimidation and violence. Individuals are experiencing the consequences in terms of disrupted personal relationships, reduced productivity, loss of employment and income, as well as physical and/or mental ill-health.”

Dr Corrigan explained that the physical health problems caused by cocaine use affect the heart, lungs, brain, kidneys and nose, with intravenous cocaine use leading to abscesses, clots, as well as a range of infections including HIV and Hepatitis B and C. The mental health problems include depression, anxiety, agitation, compulsive behaviour, paranoia and aggression. The toxic effects of cocaine are heightened when it is combined with alcohol.

Ms Patricia O’Connor, Director of the NDST, added:

“It is imperative that the information in this report be used by policy makers, service providers, general practitioners, hospital consultants and community groups to better understand the impact of cocaine on individuals, families and communities. We must strive to make services more visible and attractive to those who may need to benefit from them.”

The thirteen recommendations in the report, principally focusing on treatment, but also covering supply, prevention and research will now be followed up by the relevant Departments and Agencies and others involved in the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy.


Notes to the Editor:

  • The Minister of State has responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy and Community Affairs at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and for Housing and Urban Renewal at the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
  • The NACD was established in July 2000 to advise the Irish Government in relation to the prevalence, prevention, treatment / rehabilitation and consequences of problem drug use in Ireland, based on the analysis of research findings and information. The NACD is overseeing the delivery of a work programme on the extent, nature, causes and effects of drug use in Ireland. The NACD comprises representatives nominated from relevant agencies and sectors, both statutory and non-statutory. The NACD reports to the Minister of State responsible for the National Drugs Strategy. The NACD has published several reports which are available on the website.
  • The NDST was established in 1997 by the Government following a recommendation in the first report of the Ministerial Task Force on Measures to reduce the demand for Drugs published in October 1996 (chaired by the then MOS to the Government).

The core mandate of the Team is to effectively oversee the operation of LDTFs/RDTFs. In addition the Team is mandated to (a) ensure effective coordination between Departments and agencies, and identify and (b) consider policy issues and ensure that policy is informed by the work of and lessons from the LDTFs / RDTFs, through joint meetings with the IDG (Ref: 3.6.5 Page 121, Action 85: NDS).

The terms of reference of the NDST, as defined in the NDS (Ref: page 121 action 85)

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