Fears at revival in stronger cocaine and ecstasy

A buoyant European cocaine market and a revival in ecstasy, with both drugs increasingly potent, is posing greater risks to users.

A warning from an EU drugs agency emerged as recent Irish figures show a 90% jump in new cocaine treatment cases since 2012.

Furthermore, the HSE last week issued warnings about the circulation of high strength MDMA (ecstasy) tablets following two deaths at a music festival in the UK and as the festival season kicks off in Ireland.

However, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction is also concerned at rising detections of “highly potent” synthetic heroin, known as fentanyl, which can kill in “minute” doses, with deaths in Ireland.

The agency’s European Drug Report 2018, using Irish data supplied by the Health Research Board, also shows: n Increasing recent (last year) use of cannabis among young adults in Ireland, approaching the EU average of 14% n In line with previous reports, Ireland continues to have one of the highest drug mortality rates (70 per million people) — fourth highest, with the UK, in the EU (average 22 per million). n Based on 2015 data, Ireland has the second highest recent use of ecstasy among young adults, at 4.4%, compared to EU average of 1.8%. n Ireland has the fourth highest recent use of cocaine among young adults, at 2.9%, against a 1.9% EU average.

Ecstasy tablets, file image

Meanwhile, the report said “Europe’s cocaine market is buoyant” citing rising coca plant cultivation and cocaine production in Latin America and increased availability in a number of European countries.

It said the number of cocaine seizures had increased, returning to peak levels of 2008, with an upward trend in purity now at the highest level in the past decade.

It said there had been a rise in first-time cocaine treatment cases, a trend reflected in Ireland with a 90% jump in new cases, from 297 in 2012 to 568 in 2016, reaching record highs.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction director Alexis Goosdeel said:

“We must be concerned about the health implications of cocaine use as we are beginning to see some worrying developments in this area, including a larger number of people entering treatment for the first time for cocaine problems.”

The report found an increase in seizures of chemicals used to manufacture MDMA in 2016. It said trends show that the MDMA content of tablets has increased substantially and that these high-strength pills have been linked with “deaths”.

The report said 11 MDMA factories were dismantled in 2016, more than double the number in 2015.

Editorial: 10

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