According to recent statistics from Ireland’s Health Services (HSE), there were 10,664 people treated for so-called problematic drug use in 2019, up 18% from 2013. Although opioids continue to hold the top spot, cocaine has overtaken cannabis as the second most common drug for which people enter treatment. Cannabis has now been bumped down to third place for the first time ever.

Health Research Board (HRB) researcher Dr Anne Marie Carew says that those most likely to enter treatment for cocaine use are males in their 30s, in paid employment, and most likely to use alcohol as an additional drug.

“However, a rise in reporting of crack cocaine is a worrying trend where cases with chronic problem drug use, mix crack cocaine with opioids. These cases are more likely to be unemployed and homeless. It is important that this distinction is noted in order to monitor trends and tailor treatments accordingly”, said Dr Carew.

Opioids, most commonly heroin, continue to account for the most rehab visits at 39% of treatment cases in 2019. Optimistically, however, there has been a significant drop in cases of opioid treatment, as much as 51% since 2013.

Cocaine use now makes up nearly one-quarter of all rehab stays in 2019. Whereas opioid use has decreased, cocaine use has increased approximately 8% since 2013.

Cocaine surpassed cannabis in treatment cases, with cannabis accounting for 23.5% of cases in 2019: a decrease of nearly 6% since 2013.

Benzodiazepines (such as alprazolam, clonazepam and diazepam) are ranked fourth, at approximately 10% of cases. And 55% of all cases involved polydrug use.

Overall, men accounted for seven in 10 cases every year since 2013 and the majority were unemployed.

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