Warning over sharp rise in cocaine use

COCAINE use in Donegal has risen sharply, the Assistant Director of Nursing, Donegal Alcohol and Drug Service has warned.

Cora McAleer was speaking to the Donegal News in the wake of a new report by the Health Research Board (HRB), which reveals cocaine is the most common drug for which people are seeking treatment in Ireland.

There were over 12,000 cases treated for problem drug abuse last year.


Almost 40 per cent of cases were never treated before and cases recorded can involve multiple treatments for the same time period.

Cocaine use has surpassed heroin use, with cannabis now the third most common drug reported, followed by benzodiazepines.

“Very much the national picture is very much reflected locally,” said Ms McAleer.

“There has been a large increase in cocaine use twinned with a large acceptance among those who use it. There are two things we are seeing; those who are using cocaine and who are not yet experiencing the crash and those who are addicted.

“It is a drug. It is not regulated in any way, shape or form. It is not the pure cocaine that people got in the ‘80s. It’s laced with unregulated chemicals and products which add to the addiction and harm.”

The average age for drug users in Ireland is 33 years, with the vast majority male and the number of drug users in paid employment has doubled since 2016.

The data shows that in terms of treatment, cannabis is largely used by those aged 19 years or younger, cocaine by those aged 20-34 years and opioids by people aged over 35 years.


Ms McAleer said in her experience women are feeling the impact more severely.

“From a treatment perspective, those presenting for treatment are across the board in terms of age. But females may feel the impact more acutely and will present for treatment sooner, whereas males will keep using.

“We are aware of the high usage of cocaine among those aged in their 20s, 30s and 40s. Quantity of usage can be mostly attributed to young adults aged from 21 to 32 years. Those in the older category may be using it less frequently. It is very much ages and stages.”

Ms McAleer said the prevalence of cocaine use among young people is the availability and accessibility of the drug.

“They see it as a substance that does not give them a hangover. There is a huge connection across the board with sport and cocaine use.”

She said alcohol can be the gateway for some to lead on to drug taking.

“Drugs do their trends. Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s we would be having this conversation about heroin. Nothing is impossible – moving from cocaine to heroin. It comes full circle,” she said.

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