Warning of big rise in use of crack cocaine in Limerick

More people now seeking help for cocaine addiction than cannabis

“We are back to trends pre-economic downturn of 2008 where it was as common to have a bag of coke in your handbag as it was to have 20 cigarettes.” Photograph: Getty Images

“We are back to trends pre-economic downturn of 2008 where it was as common to have a bag of coke in your handbag as it was to have 20 cigarettes.” Photograph: Getty Images

 

Crack cocaine use in Limerick has grown significantly over the last year, and a local addiction treatment centre is now distributing “crack pipes” in a bid to stop addicts using unhygienic tools.

“People can buy a rock of ‘crack’ [here] for €15, and a bag of heroin for €15, which is certainly less than what it was in previous years,” Ana Liffey drug project chief executive Tony Duffin told The Irish Times.

The warning came in the wake of the publication of a national report that showed that more people are now seeking help for cocaine addiction than cannabis.

The dramatic increase in the sale and use of cocaine and crack cocaine is partly down to the considerable success that the Garda has had in the last year in seizing supplies of cannabis.

Julie McKenna, a senior drug detox worker with voluntary organisation Novas, said “people would have had difficulties accessing hash and cannabis because of a lot of raids, so there was a bit of a drought in it”.

“Cocaine-use across all sectors of society is on the increase, and we are back to trends pre-economic downturn of 2008, where it was as common to have a bag of coke in your handbag as it was to have 20 cigarettes,” she said.

Ana Liffey’s care workers are now in touch with greater numbers than ever before since the Covid-19 pandemic began, and they are sharing information about the risks posed by Covid, HIV and hepatitis.

Mr Duffin said addict experts, gardaí and local politicians feared that “some people will buy crack cocaine and heroin together, and they’ll use that as what is known as a ‘speedball’ – and they’ll inject that”.

He said mixing alcohol with cocaine powder was creating additional risks because it “metabolises in the body to create a drug called cocaethylene, which is more harmful than either of the two other drugs”.

“It’s more damaging to your heart, and the individual is disinhibited, and behaviour changes accordingly,” said Mr Duffin.

He added that polydrug addiction – where a number of drugs are taken together – was “a major problem”.

Addiction

Ms McKenna said people who used cocaine at the weekend – they often refuse to accept that they have an addiction – were now also becoming addicted to benzodiazepines.

Benzodiazepines were used “to straighten themselves up to go back to work and function in society on a Monday morning after a weekend party of cocaine and alcohol”.

Ms McKenna added: “People going to their debs years ago, you’d be thinking of the hair and the dress, the nails, the tan and the handbag. Now they are factoring in the price of cocaine, that they need a couple of bags of cocaine for the night.”

Limerick Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan, who is director of the Mid-West Drugs and Alcohol Taskforce, said “cocaine supermarkets” were being run out of homes across parts of Limerick city.

“Cocaine is all over the place, it’s everywhere. We have never seen anything like it. Gardaí are doing the best job they can do with the resources they have.”