An "epidemic" of crack cocaine usage in west Tallaght, Dublin, one of the poorest communities in the State, is "devastating" families and communities, a report published on Monday warns.
Crack addiction "will dwarf the heroin epidemic of the '80s" without an "urgent" increase of €1 million per annum to local drugs services, says the report from the Tallaght Drug and Alcohol Task Force (TDATF).
It says there are at least 100 ‘crack houses’ in the community, where smoking, injecting, selling and manufacturing of the highly addictive drug is happening, and “some may have young children living in them”.
The report, ‘The landscape of substance misuse and its impact on the communities of Tallaght’s Drugs and Alcohol Task Force’, claims 10 per cent of west Tallaght residents are “actively looking to move out of the area” due to the drug crisis.
It details an 18 per cent increase in referrals for crack addiction between 2019 and last year. One service, Jobstown Assisting Drug Dependency, engaged with 63 crack users in 2018 but now has 408.
The number of crack pipes dispensed has risen from 157 in 2018 to almost 4,000 so far this year between its Killinarden and Jobstown crack services.
Crack cocaine is now “by far the most pressing substance misuse issue facing frontline drug services,” said Grace Hill, TDATF co-ordinator. Established to meet the heroin crisis of the 1990s, they are “struggling to respond” to the current situation.
A third of referrals for crack addiction last year were women, including young mothers, who are described as “increasingly vulnerable to intimidation and forced behaviours [including] selling themselves to settle debts”.
The “severe impact” on communities includes increased public-order problems, intimidation, open dealing, violence, serious mental and physical health issues, increased suicide rates, child-protection concerns, increased poverty, self-neglect, forced prostitution and homelessness.
Children are “getting involved in the drugs economy much earlier. They are dealing at age 10 and 11 and by the time they are 15 or 16 they are holding packages worth €40,000 to €50,000.”
A significant number of vulnerable addicts’ homes have been taken over by dealers – known as ‘cuckooing’ – and used as bases “to sell drugs and oversee forced behaviours and actions such as prostitution to settle a drug debt”.
Funding to the task force has fallen in the past decade, from €1,316,913 in 2020 to €1,244,952.
Significantly increased funding is needed for increased staff for treatment services, specialised crack cocaine projects and family-support services, and more residential places.
Describing the €500,000 committed in Budget 2022 to address crack cocaine across the State as "an insult and a joke", Ms Hill said: "The Department of Health is not getting the urgency of what's happening here. This is people's lives being destroyed."
A comment was sought from the department.