Middle-aged men buying cocaine on way home from work and using it in secret in garden shed, says addiction expert

Shed stock image credit: Getty Images

Níall Feiritear

Irish men in their 40s and 50s are hiding out in garden sheds to conceal their cocaine use, an addiction expert has revealed.

One of the biggest groups of cocaine users are men are who take the drug alone at home, according to Dr Garrett McGovern, Founder of the Priority Medical Clinic and Clinical Lead with the HSE in addiction services.

It comes on the back of the shocking revelation that Ireland ranks joint fourth highest in the world for cocaine use, reported by the UN this week. Only Australian, Spanish and the Netherlands residents take more cocaine than the Irish, relatively speaking.

Almost one in 40 people in Ireland (2.4 pc) surveyed said they had used the drug in the past year.

“The men are doing it in the garden shed, away from their families, in solitude with music,” Dr McGovern said.

The experienced GP spoke in detail about the effects of the drug on users and the most common cases he comes across.

Ireland is fourth for relative cocaine use internationally, according to the UN.

“Paranoia goes hand in glove with coke addiction. Sporadic users won’t get psychosis. But with daily users, it’s virtually all the cases.

“Its really awful and often with tragic consequences. This story- these figures- is nothing new. We have known we have a huge problem for years.

“People of all shapes and sizes will take powder coke, binging socially with alcohol. Since Covid, many people in their 40s and 50s have started using, nearly always men, although women just don’t end up in treatment.

“They are doing it in the garden shed, away from their families, in solitude. They might buy it on the way home from work – that’s very common. They know a familiar dealer and take it on the journey home.

“Then they take it in the shed with the music on, I see so much of that. It’s a very common pattern,” Dr McGovern said.

Crack cocaine use and addiction is also becoming a huge problem in Ireland and is reportedly spreading to many urban environments.

“That drug is mainly in poverty stricken, disadvantaged areas. Debts have to be made good. The users are like sacrificial lambs, they store stuff and get raided. They always get done, it’s almost like they are offered up.

“Intimidation then runs onto family members, it is an ugly, horrible world. Horrendous. I think it’s creeping into the midlands where we are seeing more and more crack there, it is a very prominent part of our work.

“Crack is spreading around major cities in Ireland. We didn’t get the meth explosion here. Our version is crack cocaine which has taken hold. It affects the communities, destroys them.

“It’s a cultural or sub cultural thing, more than an addiction. Behavioural therapy is almost pie in the sky treatment at this stage. Dealers are taking over people’s houses, so I hear. They are actually running people’s houses as dens.

“From a treatment point of view, it’s so, so hard with crack. I think in order to sort the crack cocaine situation out – it’s inextricably linked with crime and disadvantage,” the expert said.

Dr McGovern also discussed the other types of cocaine users he sees and what solutions there may be, if any.

“There is coke around gym use and often women trying to moderate weight. Steroid use too is a problem- strange considering these people would be apparently fitness conscious; that they put this stuff into their bodies. But I don’t treat much of that.

“Dealers and traffickers are very inventive in the ways they get it through to the country. So much of it is coming in. In terms of a solution, we are looking at a health lead approach as a step in the right direction.

“It will require inventive and new thinking. It’s an uncomfortable truth, we are banning it but it’s not working. We are using a lot of drugs in this country. It’s gritty and it’s pure. Its being injected and used in powder form.

“I worry we won’t see a solution in my lifetime. We need to be open minded. We might need to change policy. Prohibition has had a good go of it and it’s not working. If we properly evaluate it, we’re in with a chance,” Dr McGovern concluded.