Cocaine use has become more common among farmers and drug dealers see them as 'ATM machines', it has been claimed.
In June, the Health Research Board revealed the drug is now the most common drug that people seek treatment for.
Nearly one-in-three patients seeking help had been using cocaine and Irish Farmers Journal Deputy Editor Caitríona Morrissey said many of them are farmers.
"The dealers see farms, they obviously see large assets and they see money," she told Breakfast Briefing.
"They see a way to, potentially, just have they would see as an ATM machine, where they can get a young person into addiction [and] they will have the means to come up with money.
"Or maybe their family will be pressured into covering any drug debts that are there.."
Ms Morrissey said drug debts can go as high as €30,000 and dealers are "more than willing" to commit crimes to get the debt repaid; some have damaged equipment, broken windows and even burnt down farm buildings as retribution.
“The dealers see a farm and they see money,” she said.
“So, they are willing to give credit and then ultimately have that person in debt which is linked to further problems because once you’re in debt you’re beholden to the dealer.
“Then you have the families; when they do find out, [they] are willing to try and get their family member out of trouble, they need to clear the debt and deal with the addiction problem.
“So, it spirals into a bigger problem for not just the person who is taking the drug.”
There is also still “very much a stigma” about addiction in rural Ireland and many people prefer not to talk about what their relatives are going through.
“Families will do anything to help their family member - but [many] also try and keep it that little bit quieter,” Ms Morrissey
“They don’t want anyone thinking badly of their family member.”
The HSE runs a free, confidential helpline on 1800 459 459 in which people can talk through their concerns about alcohol or drug use, Monday to Friday between 9:30 am and 5:30 pm.
Main image: Split of cocaine and a farmer.