Experts believe that Ireland is likely to enter a severe economic recession following the disruption of COVID-19. To boot, international research has shown that drug use and drug dealing typically increases during a recession – it happens differently from country to country with a diverse range of substances coming to the fore, but the consensus is that where other industries suffer, the drugs industry gets a boost in an economic downturn.
One reason for this, reports RTE Ireland, is that during recessions people look to boost their incomes via other means, drug selling fits that bill for some. It is also believed that reduced funding to public services, namely police forces, can leave an opening for those looking to make money illegally.
Simultaneously, increased unemployment or reduced working hours can result in people having more free time to search for and use drugs, and drug use can also present an escape from, or medication for, ‘the boredom, hopelessness and depression of joblessness’ adds RTE.
Distinctly, with this recession, and combined with the restrictions of COVID-19, it’s believed a move towards the online sale of drugs will soar, as well as an increase in the sale of some new psychoactive substances, notably synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.
Media reports have warned how drug dealers in Ireland have already moved quickly to online sales, through crypto-markets and social media since open street selling became too difficult and risky during lockdown – less people on the streets made dealers much more visible to the Gardaí.
It’s believed the slowdown in people and goods moving across borders may have also forced some traffickers to change their routes and trafficking techniques, with some switching to drugs that are easier to conceal. Fentanyl, for example, is more potent than heroin and is easier to conceal and therefore smuggle. But authorities are warning that if traffickers became conformable with this new supply model, they could continue the online buying and selling of synthetic opioids, which would increase their availability in Ireland.
Some traffickers are already switching from heroin to synthetic opioids. Synthetic opioids and other new psychoactive substances are a challenge to treatment, harm reduction and drug market policing. Not only must state organisations constantly monitor for the emergence of new drugs and the risks they pose to consumers, but the distribution chain differentiates them from other drugs.
Traditionally, where drugs have been warehoused in hub countries before being smuggled to national wholesalers, many synthetic opioids are sent in small packages through the post, sometimes direct from the manufacturer. The rise in online shopping and delivery of legitimate parcels during lockdown has made it more difficult for authorities to screen packages for drugs.
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