Ireland ‘towards top of EU league’ for cocaine use

IRELAND is towards the top of the European league for cocaine use, according to an EU report.

While well behind the two biggest-consuming countries, Britain and Spain, Ireland is ranked fifth out of 27 countries for recent cocaine use among young adults.

And with the Irish figures somewhat dated, Ireland may move up the ladder when new figures emerge. The next Irish population survey, to be published in January, is expected to show a rise in cocaine consumption.

The annual report of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, published yesterday, shows a rise in cocaine use across Europe along with record seizures of the drug.

The centre’s 2007 report found that across the continent, heroin use and drug injecting was becoming generally less common but drug-related deaths were growing.

It said the sharp growth in opium production in Afghanistan may threaten the situation with heroin.

In relation to cocaine, the report found that 4.7% of those aged 15-34 in Ireland had a lifetime prevalence, meaning they had taken the drug at least once in their lives. This placed us in seventh position out of 27 countries.

Regarding usage in the last year, the figure was 2% (fifth position). The report said that 0.7% took it within the past month (joint fifth position).

In relation to cannabis use for young people, there was a lifetime prevalence of 24% (12th place), a past-year usage rate of 8.6% (14th) and a past-month usage figure of 4.3% (14th).

Ireland was in the top half of the table for ecstasy use. Lifetime prevalence was 7.1% (fifth position), past-year prevalence 2.3% (eighth) and past-month usage was 0.6% (13th).

The Health Research Board, which supplied the Irish data, said the figure for past-year cocaine use among young adults, at 2%, was behind the EU average of 2.5%.

The board’s Dr Jean Long said the Irish data was from a survey in 2002/03.

“Given the time that has elapsed since that survey, these figures are now dated,” she said. She said 10% of people entering treatment reported cocaine as their main problem drug. The number has increased 10-fold in six years, from 48 in 1999 to 482 in 2005.

The report said there were 70,000 cocaine seizures in Europe, amounting to 107 tonnes, in 2005, a rise in quantities seized of 45% on 2004.

Figures published by the Irish Examiner earlier this week showed nearly two tonnes of cocaine have been seized in 2007, a massive rise on previous years.

The European Commission said yesterday it was carrying out research into the cocaine market to establish why cocaine supply and use has risen so much, and prices fallen, despite the fact that greater quantities of the drug are being seized.

Carel Edwards of the commission’s drug unit said: “Cocaine is getting cheaper and more plentiful, yet we are catching more and more of it.

“We are dealing with an extremely well-organised worldwide market.”

He said the worldwide study on the trade would report by the end of next year.

“Very few people have any idea how the market works,” said Mr Edwards.

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