Irish youth are fourth highest cocaine users in Europe


IRELAND HAS the fourth highest use of cocaine among 15 to 24-year-olds in Europe, a report released yesterday has found.

The annual report of the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction found almost 4 per cent of 15 to 24-year-olds used cocaine last year.

Denmark had the highest rate, with 5.6 per cent, Spain had 5.4 per cent and the rate was 5 cent in the UK. The lowest rate for cocaine use was found in Romania, which had 0.1 per cent.

Ireland was also among those countries with the highest prevalence of drug-related deaths. It was fifth in Europe, with 57 drug-induced deaths per million of population, behind Luxembourg, Estonia, Norway and Denmark.

Treatment demand for cocaine use had increased dramatically in Ireland in the last eight years. In 2001, 81 people reported cocaine use as their main drug problem, while the figure for 2008 was 775.

The report said among the countries with the highest proportions of cocaine clients entering treatment, Spain and Italy reported a stable situation, while the Netherlands showed a falling proportion.

“However, the proportion is now increasing in other countries such as Denmark, Ireland, Greece and Portugal,” the report found.

It said national experts estimated that detoxification was available to most of those who sought it in nine countries, and to almost all in a further 10. But in eight countries, including Ireland, France, Romania and Slovenia, detoxification was available to less than half those who sought it.

Ireland was also identified as a country where legal alternatives to illegal drugs are sold. The internet and “head shops” were seen as the main outlets.

While the online shops selling “spice”, an alternative to cannabis, were based in 14 European countries, more than two-fifths were located in the UK with significant numbers also in Ireland, Latvia and Romania, the report found.

Since BZP, a synthetic mood-altering drug, became subject to control measures in the EU, it can no longer be used in “party pills” sold as legal alternatives to ecstasy, the report found. But BZP alternatives are being sold in online shops in Ireland, Poland and the UK.

Another “legal” drug, mephedrone, is also being sold in Ireland and across Europe. It can induce anxiety and paranoia and has been linked to two deaths in Sweden.

In a separate report focusing on polydrug use patterns and responses among school children and young adults, the centre found 30 per cent of 15 to 34-year-olds in Ireland reported frequent or heavy alcohol use in the last year. This compared to 18 per cent in the next highest state, Denmark.

Frequent or heavy young alcohol users were twice as likely to use cannabis or cocaine, the report found. It also found 21 per cent of 15 to 16-year-olds in Ireland reported use of alcohol and cigarettes in the last month and 9 per cent combined those with cannabis.

Wolfgang Götz, director of the centre, said cocaine and heroin continue to maintain a firm hold on Europe’s drug scene. “There is little to suggest at present any improvement regarding their use in Europe,” he said.