Billy Keane: 'Parents, if your son or daughter is at college, there's more than a 50pc chance they're on drugs'
There is more money around and the recovery has reached rural Ireland. The improvements in terms of income are here at last, but in smaller increments than in the cities.
That is the good news, but the downside is our drug problem has reached epidemic proportions. There isn't a city, town or village that has not been overrun. The post offices are closing and the drug dealerships are opening up.
Yet nobody seems to know. There is hardly a mention of the epidemic in the media. The politicians are quite rightly concerned with the problem of homelessness.
The drug crisis dwarfs the homelessness crisis in terms of scale and the numbers affected. In fact, the drug epidemic feeds numbers in to the homelessness crisis. Brexit and the results thereof will affect Ireland forever, but right now the most pressing problem is drugs and our politicians on every side are downgrading the effects of the worst scourge since the Famine.
This may seem like hyperbole but I swear to you that I speak the truth. I also swear to you that I am absolutely sure of my facts. Please believe me, I beg of you, before it is too late.
I have spoken to addiction counsellors, gardaí, students and even a drug dealer.
But the most telling evidence comes from those who are using drugs on a regular basis.
The students I spoke to in UCD last weekend estimated that about 60pc of their friends are on drugs. The story in the other third-level institutions is equally depressing. The vast majority of young people are on drugs. If your son or daughter is under 30, the likelihood is he or she is taking drugs.
And I'm not talking about students here who are sitting around in their pyjamas smoking a rite-of-passage joint while watching 'Home and Away' on a wet afternoon.
The young are on hard drugs. There are heroin addicts in every town. I spoke to the chairperson of a GAA club who told me two of their best players, who could well have gone on to play for the county, are now registered heroin addicts.
I know of decent boys and girls who were targeted and duped. Their lives have been destroyed by the new breed of Black and Tans who are ruining our country. The ironic part of all this is the Irish Tans wrap themselves in the Tricolour and pretend to be republicans. They are criminals and traitors.
The effect of the drugs changes and ruins lives.
The experts are still not sure of the effects of some of the newer drugs being sold by the dealers. What we do know is the problems caused by drug use will have catastrophic consequences, not just now but for decades to come.
Show this piece to any young person and they will be in total agreement. I am that confident of the facts.
Gardaí I spoke to in seven different counties are overwhelmed.
They are in agreement with the 60pc figure.
One garda told me of a stag party and 23 out of the 27 on the stag were doing cocaine. They all had "good jobs" and came from "respectable families".
The Maurice McCabe case has seriously undermined public confidence in the Garda, even though only a small number were out to destroy Maurice.
One of the saddest parts of Katie Hannon's incredibly moving documentary was Maurice McCabe telling how proud he was when he first wore the Garda uniform, only to have his life destroyed by his colleagues.
One garda told me "the proudest day for any garda is when we throw our caps in the air in Templemore. My friend turned to me and said we're gardaí now and we shed a tear".
His friend was beaten up just a few months ago while he was trying to stop a drug-fuelled fight outside a night club.
The vast, vast majority of our gardaí joined because they wanted to make a difference; they cared and they were patriots in the service of the State.
They continue to put their safety on the line every time they go out to a crime scene. There isn't a garda in the country who hasn't been in a near-death situation. Not one.
There isn't a garda on the street who will disagree with a single word written here. Yet they feel they cannot speak out.
One garda said to me: "The people might think we are after overtime or on the make in some way."
Gardaí are under-manned, undermined, under-resourced and overwhelmed.
They just cannot keep up with the huge increase in drug use. There was always drugs, but in the course of a year the problem has become a crisis of epidemic proportions.
I have been reading the provincial papers a lot over the past five or six weeks.
The court cases in the newspapers are a telling reminder of just how low we have sunk as a nation.
The 'Tipperary Star', 'Waterford News and Star', 'Connacht Tribune', 'Donegal Democrat', 'Clare Champion', 'Laois Nationalist', 'Clonmel Nationalist', 'Dundalk Democrat' and 'The Kerryman', among many others, feature numerous court reports of drug offences or crimes committed because of drug use.
But the relatively recent rapid increase in drug sales has not yet been reported in any forensic or scientific manner for the very valid reason that it takes time to collect, collate and asses the data.
But if you want to know the up-to-date state of toxic play, just ask any student or any garda.
To parents, I would say if your son or daughter is studying in any of our third-level colleges, there is more than a 50pc chance he or she is on drugs.
And the young lad or girl who went off to college full of hopes and dreams in September may have already suffered irreparable damage to their mental and physical well-being.