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 concern over cocaine use in Ireland

9th December 2003

The National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) has said today that cocaine use in Ireland is a cause for concern.

Launching a new NACD report entitled, 'An Overview of Cocaine Use In Ireland '–Dr Des Corrigan, Chairperson of the NACD said

" the report indicates several areas of concern especially relating to the injection of cocaine by some users and highlights gaps in our knowledge regarding so-called recreational use of cocaine powder. In addition, the challenge to the prevention networks and the treatment services of incorporating another drug with serious social, personal and health consequences into their case mix should not be underestimated."

Key findings:

  • In a survey of 100 cocaine users by UISCE (Union for Improved, Services, Communication and Education) approximately half of respondents (48%) reported being in treatment for heroin dependence
  • A survey of 100 drug users attending the Contact Centre in Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI) showed that 95% had used cocaine in the last year
  • A considerable number of those surveyed (UISCE and MQI) had high levels of poly drug use including alcohol, benzodiazepines, heroin and cannabis
  • The majority in both surveys reported weekly use
  • A considerable number (40% UISCE and 20% MQI) report daily use with frequency averaging 4 times a day
  • Only small percentage in both surveys reported seeking treatment for problematic cocaine use, although notably many experienced a range of ill effects or difficulties

Other findings:

  • The NACD& DAIRU Drug Prevalence Survey (2003) shows that 3% of the general population report ever using cocaine and less than 1% report ever using crack. Lifetime Prevalence was highest among 15-24 year olds.
  • The SLAN (2003) survey showed an increase in levels of cocaine use from 1.8% of males in 1998 to 3% in 2002 reporting using cocaine in the last year. This finding was consistent amongst women with an increase from 0.6% in 1998 to 1.9% in 2002.
  • Offences relating to cocaine under the Misuse of Drugs Act have almost doubled during the period 1999 to 2001, yet these offences still represent a small proportion (3%) of all offences.
  • Cocaine seizures up to 2001 remained consistent at 3%.
  • The Drug Treatment Centre Board report substantial increases in the number of urine samples testing positive for cocaine among the drug treatment population since 2000.
  • Perceptions of cocaine as a safe drug need to be addressed. Mode of administration snorting, inhaling and injecting carries with it varying degrees of risk.
  • The National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS) show that the number of people who report cocaine as their main problem drug is consistently small at 1% of all cases attending drug treatment up to the year 2000. There has been an increase in the numbers reporting cocaine as their secondary problem drug during the period 1996 to 2000 from 1% to 7%.

Commenting on how services might approach this problem Ms Mairéad Lyons Director of the NACD acknowledged that drug prevention approaches in Ireland are consistent with best practice internationally and investment should be continued in this area. However, she said that

"the perceptions of cocaine as a safe drug need to be addressed given the level of risk behaviours associated with sharing equipment for injecting, snorting and smoking. There is no drug of substitution to treat cocaine dependence, structured programmes are needed with core services such as individual or group counseling. Drug treatment services across the sectors face an enormous challenge in managing problem cocaine use amongst the opiate drug treatment population."

Further information:

Paul Daly

Montague Communications
5 Wellpark Avenue
Dublin 9

Tel: +353 1 837 7960
Mobile:+353 87 223 5187

Mairéad Lyons

3rd Floor
Shelbourne House
Shelbourne Road
Dublin 4

Tel: +353 1 667 0760 / 0869
Mobile: +353 87 798 0614

Note to the Editor

Surveys carried out by UISCE (Union of Services for Improved Communication and Education) and MQI (Merchants Quay Ireland) were conducted on behalf of the NACD.

The UISCE survey was carried out using a questionnaire provided by the NACD during November and December 2002. Analysis was completed on SPSS. Cocaine users were accessed through a drug user network by UISCE representatives, from across the city and including recreational drug users.

The MQI survey was carried out using an amended questionnaire provided by the NACD during January and February 2003. The analysis was carried out by MQI on SPSS and returned to the NACD. The respondents were accessed through the MQI Contact Centre only and surveys were completed by MQI staff.

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