The estimated street value of the illegal drug trade in County Wexford for one year is €12 million, according to figures presented to local election candidates by the Cornmarket Project.
Half of that figure, €6 million is traded in the Wexford town area alone while the Gorey, New Ross and Enniscorthy areas account for €2 million each in illegal drugs sales every year.
The stark economics of County Wexford's drugs market was outlined to election candidates at a briefing session in Clayton Whites Hotel which was also attended by the Junior Minister for Defence, Paul Kehoe.
Cornmarket co-ordinator Paul Delaney spoke of the growing use locally of drugs like heroin and cocaine but he aid other challenges are faced by the availability of a bewildering range of new psychoactive drugs and counterfeit prescription tablets.
These are readily available over the internet and have led to a new and much younger cohort of clients attending the Cornkmarket services for help with addiction.
'This is creating havoc amongst young people who use these drugs as their cognitive function or thinking ability is distorted, often with catastrophic effects', he said.
'Wexford does not want to end up like other towns and cities throughout the country that have gained a bad reputation because of drug related violence and unless we invest in services like the Cornmarket Project, we are only storing up trouble for the future', he warned.
'The main issue faced by the Cornmarket Project and other treatment services is the changed nature of substance misuse in County Wexford over the past few years.'
'These days, we are seeing a lot more of the so-called new psychoactive substances or synthetic drugs and this has brought about a new generation of younger drug users', Mr. Delaney told election candidates.
The main drugs, both legal and illegal, being abused in County Wexford are alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, XTC, Heroin, Crack, Zanaz, Fake Valium and a range of new psychoactive substances such as Spice (synthetic cannabis), Mephedrone (also called Bubble, Bounce, Meow Meow, M Cat) and LDS type drugs often called N-Bombs.
The number of people from around the county who sought help from the Cornmarket Project for addiction issues in 2018 was 420 and of these, the number who became drug free or greatly reduced their substance misuse was 290.
The number of people in the Wexford town area who were treated for addiction issues by the Cornmarket Project last year was 195 while the number in Gorey was 72. In Enniscorthy it was 80 and in New Ross 73.
Brian Kehoe, the CEO of Wexford Local Development spoke about the links between poverty and social exclusion and entrenched substance abuse.
He said that despite the upturn in the economy and a welcome increase in employment opportunities, many of the people who engage with WLD services have long-term problems involving a lack of literacy skills, past trauma and mental health issues, addiction problems and other complex issues that often hold them back from progressing directly into employment.
'In these cases, our staff work more intensively with the individuals to help them to progress and in some cases, we refer them into our Cornmarket Project programme', said Mr. Kehoe.
Paul Delaney was asked about cuts to the addiction treatment project during the recession and said the programme lost 30% of its funding during that time and despite a huge increase in the numbers attending its services, it was never reinstated.
He said many of those who attend the services are referred from the Courts and Probation services because of criminal activities associated with addiction and pointed out that it costs €80,000 to keep a person in prison for a year but only €1,100 to engage someone for a year on their treatment and rehabilitation programmes.