Thursday 14 December 2017

Children as young as 13 are caught up in crack 'epidemic'

Cocaine drugs heap on a black mirror, close up view
Cocaine drugs heap on a black mirror, close up view

Laura Lynott

Tallaght is close to experiencing a crack cocaine "epidemic", with children as young as 13 smoking the drug that brought misery to the streets of New York in the 1980s.

Crack, the crystal form of cocaine, is between 75pc and 100pc pure and far stronger and more potent than regular cocaine as it is inhaled and travels swiftly to the brain.

For as little as €20, a hit can last around 10 to 20 minutes. Such is the intensity of the high that many users take to crime to feed their habit.

PROBLEM

Liam Collins, coordinator of the Fettercairn Drug Rehabilitation Project, told the Herald: "Our main problem is crack cocaine. It' s bordering on an epidemic in Tallaght.

"But it's also a huge problem in other areas across north and south Dublin.

"It's a poorer man's drug, and lads and girls in this area are using it as frequently as other people would take a drink.

"It costs about €20 for a small amount, and people can still spend €100 or more on it if they're not in employment and are on social welfare.

"Some who use it are as young as 13 and they go right up to 38 and 40.

"The thing people need to remember is these people aren't 'scumbags', as some refer to them - they're people who have usually come from bad life experiences and who need help.

"They're taking it at gatherings too, like at weddings, funerals and christenings.

"I'd estimate its use has gone up by anything as much as 50pc in a year.

"Only around 1pc who take it actually get help, and they're the ones who have been in trouble. I'm convinced there's a connection between those who drop out of school and getting into drugs like this."

The Mayor of South Dublin, Guss O'Connell, said he was "shocked" at the revelations but added that recent garda raids had shown there was an increasing "intensity" of drugs on Dublin streets.

"I worked in the city in the 1970s and 80s and drugs were a problem, but nothing like they are now," he said.

"Serious drugs have permeated the whole of Ireland and this only confirms what we are always afraid of, that the next societal pest will be worse than the one before.

"The council will be working closely with the Drugs Task Force in Tallaght and Lucan and we will work with the community workers on the ground in response."

GRANTS

Mr O'Connell said a range of grants amounting to €2m had already been given to local community groups to "provide alternatives" to young people, but he acknowledged that more work may need to be done.

Last week, gardai in the north inner city seized around 26kg of crack cocaine and a significant amount of cannabis as part of the investigation codenamed Operation Spire.

One of the country's biggest seizures of crack cocaine was made by the Divisional Drug Unit based at Store Street Garda Station.

Officers seized crack with an estimated street value of €100,000 in Belvedere Place during an operation in 2012.

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