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Demand for treatment for cocaine addiction soars as cases treble over six years


Stock image (PA)

Stock image (PA)

Stock image (PA)

The demand for cocaine addiction treatment has soared and for the first time overtaken cannabis as the most common drug which users are trying to beat.

A new report has revealed that 2,560 cases were treated for problem cocaine use in 2019 - more than treble the number in 2013.

The number of cases treated for crack cocaine is also increasing, with 367 people reporting it as a main problem drug in 2019, up from 255 cases in 2018.

Men make up eight in 10 cocaine cases each year since 2013, the Health Research Board (HRB) revealed.

Three in 10 cocaine addicts were in paid employment last year, an increase from two in 10 six years earlier.

It found that mixing drugs among cocaine users has fallen from four in five cases in 2013 to three in five cases in 2019.

The drugs most commonly taken with cocaine are alcohol, followed by cannabis and benzodiazepines.

The report said that cases may involve more than one episode of treatment by the one person.

Dr Mairead O'Driscoll, interim chief executive of the HRB, said: "The figures illustrate the level of cocaine use in Irish society. The consistent rise in demand for cocaine treatment, coupled with an increase in cases in paid employment and a decrease in proportion of cases mixing drugs reflects clear changes in patterns of drug use."

Commenting on these latest figures from the National Drug Treatment Reporting System, Dr Anne Marie Carew, research officer at the HRB added: "In general, those seeking treatment for cocaine are male, 30 years of age, in paid employment and most likely to use alcohol as an additional drug.

"However, a rise in reporting of crack cocaine is a worrying trend where cases with chronic problem drug use mix crack cocaine with opioids.

"These cases are more likely to be unemployed and homeless. It is important that this distinction is noted in order to monitor trends and tailor treatments accordingly.

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"Polydrug use, or using more than one drug, remains a problem for more than half of cases presenting for treatment.

"There has been an overall decline in the proportion of treated cases who are taking more than one drug since 2013. A downward trend in the proportion of polydrug cases is positive, because mixing drugs increases the risk of overdose and can impact recovery."

In 2019, a total of 10,664 cases were treated for problem drug use, an increase from 10,274 in 2018.

Opioids - mainly heroin - were the most common main problem drug reported, accounting for 39pc of cases treated in 2019, a decrease from 51pc of cases in 2013.

Newly appointed Drugs Minister Frank Feighan said: "I believe that addressing the drug problem in Ireland requires a multi-pronged approach; providing targeted harm-reduction and prevention initiatives in tandem with treatment services."

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