On the table and behind the white lines

IRELAND is near the top of the European drug table for cocaine use, according to an EU report, but we are lower down the table for ecstasy use and in the bottom half of the table for cannabis use.

The report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) said there were higher rates of cocaine use among young adults in Ireland, Denmark, Italy and Netherlands, which were positioned behind the biggest consumers, Britain and Spain.

The EMCDDA’s 2006 annual report said 2% of 15-34 year olds in Ireland had taken cocaine in the last year, placing us in joint-fifth position out of 27 European countries. The report said global production of cocaine was up and that the number of cocaine seizures in Europe had jumped by 36% in 2004. Paul Griffiths, scientific expert with the EMCDDA, said indications from 2005 and 2006 suggested cocaine seizures were continuing to rise.

He said that while Spain and Portugal accounted for half of all cocaine seizures, traffickers were diversifying routes and trafficking through the Caribbean and Africa.

Garda and Customs officials have drawn attention to the increasing involvement of West African traffickers in supplying cocaine into Ireland via Africa. EMCDDA director Wolfgang Gotz said there was “a serious problem” with cocaine in Europe.

But he said that while the health consequences were visible they were still relatively low. The Health Research Board, which supplied the EMCDDA with Irish data, said cocaine trafficking had increased significantly in recent years, reflected in seizures, prosecutions and the falling price of the drug.

The HRB’s Johnny Connolly said 8% of people receiving treatment for cocaine in Ireland reported it as their main problem drug, compared to an EU average of 12%.

The EU report shows that Ireland is in ninth position in Europe for consumption of ecstasy within the last year among 15-34 year olds, in 14th position for cannabis use among this age category, and 11th among adults.

The report noted a rise in global heroin production and said bumper crops in Afghanistan would result in an even greater supply of high-purity heroin in 2007 and beyond.

Mr Gotz said seizures of heroin had risen in recent years in Europe, a trend reflected in Ireland. Around 100kgs of heroin are estimated to have been seized so far in Ireland this year, three times the quantity seized in 2005. Mr Gotz noted that the downward trend in drug-related deaths may be faltering and that the continuance of injecting among heroin users, and the transmission of infectious diseases, would continue to be a major health issue.

Mr Connolly said the small rise in drug-related deaths in Ireland in 2003 reflected the European trend identified by the EMCDDA. He said Ireland was categorised as a medium-prevalence country for HIV (between 5-10% among injecting drug users) and a high-prevalence country for Hepatitis C (over 60% of injecting users).

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