Impact of Covid-19 on drugs trade likely to hit recreational cocaine users most

Garda sources say reduction in cocaine use more likely to be due to economic factors than to closure of clubs and pubs

The Covid-19 outbreak will cut demand for cocaine and other drugs if it leads to hundreds of thousands of people losing their jobs, gardaí believe.

“The recreational drug-user – the guy who takes cocaine at weekends – may not be spending their money on cocaine, as we saw with the fall-off in usage during the economic crash in 2008,” said a Garda source.

Heroin usage, given its highly addictive nature, is not expected to be affected since those needing a heroin fix are unlikely to be too aware or concerned about wider issues in society such as Covid-19.

“If a guy or a girl is on heroin they have an addiction, and they’re likely to be oblivious to coronavirus. They will need to get their four or five bags a day, and they will trample over anything to get their fix.


“They’ll still be mixing in the same circles to get their heroin, so nothing is going to change for them except maybe there are fewer people on the street that they can beg for money from,” The Irish Times was told.

Meanwhile, Covid-19 is similarly unlikely to affect people who smoke cannabis or weed as most have long-term suppliers and rarely buy their supplies in clubs or pubs.

“Probably 60 per cent to 70 per cent of people who smoke weed do it at home watching television or walking the dog or fishing or whatever – that’s how they always smoked it, and that will continue,” the Garda source said.

“You can’t smoke in pubs or clubs, so closing down pubs and clubs is not going to have any major impact. There might be a bit of an increase at house parties but it won’t have any great impact,” said another Garda drugs expert.


Explaining the impact of Covid-19 on cocaine sales, both agreed that cocaine usage was never as dependent on clubs as ecstasy was as a place for sale, although many people use it only when they are out clubbing.

“Cocaine use will be hit alright because of club closures because a certain percentage is sold to clubbers. But not a huge number of people go into clubs to source cocaine the way they used to years ago to get their ecstasy,” said one source.

“A lot of people going to clubs will already have their supply before they go in, be it an eighth of a gramme, a gramme or two grammes, but they might take that now at a house party behind closed doors at someone’s house.”

Both Garda experts predict cocaine prices could fall from €70,000 a kilo to possibly €60,000 or €50,000, but Covid-19 is unlikely to lead to any major fall-off in supply.

Cocaine imports from Colombia and Venezuela to Irish cities like Dublin and Cork – though Africa and Continental European countries – will continue to arrive, taking up to seven weeks.

Ireland's cocaine supplies no longer come across the Atlantic in yachts such as The Lucky Day and Dances with Waves, when hundreds of kilos of drugs were seized off the coast of Ireland.

Instead most arrives in truck containers, hidden in consignments of products as varied as fruit and tiles, unloaded in Irish ports, where they are picked up by gangs for distribution to lower level dealers.

Irish gangs

A downturn in world trade on foot of Covid-19, resulting in less container traffic into Europe and Ireland, could impact on supplies, but Irish gangs are likely to still find ways of delivery.

Some gardaí believe that major suppliers will not want to stockpile cocaine because the quality deteriorates if it has to be stashed in ditches or fields for any length of time. Others believe that stockpiling is a real risk.

“If there’s a drop off in demand and fellows are bringing down five or six kilos of coke a month, they might sell it at a reduced price or they might stockpile for a couple of months and be ready to go again when this is all over,” said one source.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times