Figures highlight sharp rise in cocaine addiction

Addiction to drugs like cocaine, cannabis and benzodiazepines is on the rise

Figures highlight sharp rise in cocaine addiction

Posed picture. Image: Steve Parsons/PA Wire/PA Images

The number of people being treated for cocaine addiction is 60% higher than it was three years ago.

New figures from the Health Research Board show opiates like heroin are still Ireland's main problem drugs - however problems with cocaine, cannabis and benzodiazepines are on the rise.

It is the third year in a row that has seen a rise in the number of people treated for cocaine addiction.

The figures also indicate a sharp rise in the number of women reporting cocaine as their main problem drug.

The figures show that over 60,000 people were treated for problem drug use in Ireland between 2010 and 2016. The figures do not include alcohol abuse.

On Newstalk Breakfast, Tony Geoghegan CEO of Merchant's Quay Ireland, said cocaine use in on the rise on Irish streets.

"The price has also come down on the street and that reflects obviously greater availability and increased usage," he said.

"It is a relatively cheap drug now compared to what it was in the past.

"So these figures, I think, just really highlight what is actually happening on the ground."

Noting that "we used to often see people openly injecting" on Irish streets, he claimed that "now you see people smoking cocaine."

"It reflects both ends of the market in that there are street drug users using it but it has also infiltrated obviously into recreational drug users as well," he said.

The number of people reporting cocaine as their main problem drug rose above 1,000 in 2016 - up from 708 in 2013.

There was also a sharp rise in the number of women dealing with cocaine addiction - up from 14% in 2010 to 23% in 2016.

There has also been a sharp increase in addiction to benzodiazepines - largely over-the-counter tranquilizers.

The Health Research Board figures show a drop in the number of new people presenting with addiction - however there has been an increase in the number of people returning people returning for treatment, "indicating the chronic, relapsing nature of addiction."