The HSE has launched a new harm reduction campaign today that will specifically target cocaine and crack cocaine use in the country.
The number of crack cocaine users has significantly increased this year, specifically in Dublin City Centre, according to service providers.
“Till mid-March of this year, we had 249 people coming in for help,” said Tony Geoghegan, Chief Executive of Merchant’s Quay Ireland’s needle exchange service. “By June, that number had nearly doubled to 499,” he said.
He states that the new initiative by the HSE is necessary, as the sharp climb in crack cocaine use is accompanied by its blatant consumption.
“Walking around the city centre you see people smoking cocaine on the street, in broad daylight,” he said. “This is a relatively new phenomenon, this did not exist before.”
Talking about why the number of users has gone up, Geoghegan said that “availability” of the drugs is one of the key factors.
“Availability comes into play. The price of cocaine has come down, and crack is now available at €20 per bag. It’s more pervasive when the prices go down.”
Geoghegan also warned about the several health risks involved in the way these drugs are consumed. “There are several issues associated with smoking it - your physical health deteriorates very quickly. Sharing pipes can also cause issues like HIV and Hepatitis.”
He said that even when it comes to smoking, some people use homemade pipes - which usually involve substances like plastic pipes and plastic bottles. Smoking using these “homemade pipes” can cause serious respiratory issues, as “when you smoke it, you inhale plastic, which is very dangerous.”
Geoghegan said that the new HSE campaign is important to help tackle this issue. The campaign is set to be launched today by Minister of State for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy, Catherine Byrne.