Cocaine now the second most common illicit drug in Ireland
The most recent survey of cocaine use in Ireland revealed that just under 3% of 15-34 year olds had taken cocaine in the previous 12 months.
Cocaine has overtaken opiates as the second most common illicit drug in Ireland, according to the 2020 European Drug Report published on Tuesday (22 September).
Research on drug use in Ireland provided for the report by the Health Research Board (HRB) revealed that cocaine became the second most common main problem drug reported in Ireland in 2019, having ranked third behind opiates and cannabis between 2015 and 2018.
2,560 cases entered treatment for cocaine in Ireland in 2019 and the proportion of cocaine cases increased from 7.9% in 2013 to 24% in 2019.
The most recent general population survey of cocaine use in Ireland was in 2014/15, when 2.9% of 15–34 year olds said they had used cocaine in the previous 12-month period. That figure had not changed from a similar survey conducted in 2010/11.
The HRB research also revealed that cocaine was implicated in 53 deaths in Ireland in 2017, an increase of 26% on the 2016 figure.
Cannabis, meanwhile, is the most commonly used illicit drug in Ireland and all of Europe, across all age groups.
According to the general population survey carried out in 2014/15, 14% of 15-35 year olds in Ireland used cannabis in the year prior to the survey, just under the European average of 14.4%.
Cannabis was the main problem drug for 2,502 cases (23.5% of all cases) entering drug treatment last year and also the most common main problem drug reported by new cases (37.8%).
In Europe as a whole, the report pointed to an all-time high number of seizures of cocaine, with 181 tonnes having been seized in 110,000 seizures last year.
It also revealed that cocaine purity is increasing, as is the strength of cannabis resin and herb and MDMA products.
Cannabis resin and herb are now around twice as strong as they were a decade ago.
Commenting on the report, Minister of State for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, Frank Feighan TD, said: “The latest European drug report highlights the serious challenges created by illicit drugs and the overall strength of substances including high potency cannabis.
“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.”
“I also note that the report reviews the impact of the pandemic on drug use and the most vulnerable in society, which is an issue we have become very familiar with,” Feighan added.
“I say this as part of Ireland’s response to Covid-19-specific resource documents were developed to ensure that all people in receipt of opioid substitute treatment could continue safely with their treatment during the pandemic.
“I am also pleased to note that despite the major difficulties caused by the pandemic an additional 755 people were brought into opioid substitution treatment services, representing an increase of 7% nationally. This was an amazing achievement considering the difficulties involved.”