An upward trend in cocaine use and cocaine-associated deaths has spurred a new campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of using cocaine (powder and crack), and how to reduce the harms associated with snorting, smoking or injecting the drug. Developed by the Ana Liffey Drug Project (ALDP) and the Health Service Executive (HSE) it was launched by the Minister of State for Health Promotion & the National Drugs Strategy, Catherine Byrne.

“This is a very important campaign, focusing on providing information and raising awareness about cocaine among drug users and health professionals”, said Ms Byrne.

“Recent figures which show an increase in those seeking treatment for cocaine use is of real concern. This evidence supports what we are hearing from some services on the ground that cocaine use, and in particular crack cocaine use, is on the rise. I therefore welcome this new campaign which I believe will play a vital role in communicating the risks and dangers of cocaine use to dependent users and at-risk groups, as well as to those who engage in recreational use.”

Risks are increasing

Cocaine is more available and at its highest purity in Europe today than it has been in a decade. It is Europe’s most commonly used illicit stimulant drug, and Ireland ranks fourth highest in the EU for use of cocaine among young adults. Three out of 10 Irish people aged 15–64 state that they have used illicit drugs in their lifetime (cannabis, MDMA or cocaine).

Risks are greatly increased if cocaine is used in combination with other substances, including alcohol. Cocaine and alcohol combine in the body to produce cocaethylene, which increases the risk of organ damage. It also increases the risk of epilepsy, suicide, violence, accidents and sudden death.

The national drugs strategy ‘Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery’ will target clubs and public event spaces, colleges and addiction services with information about cocaine. Research indicates that the club/dance music scene has higher rates of drug use compared to the general population. Since 2017, a number of communities have reported seeing an increase in crack use, and more people are presenting with crack as their drug of choice. It is reported that the price of crack in Dublin City has reduced (€20–25 per rock), making it more accessible to people who couldn’t have previously afforded it.

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