Heroin problem has ‘spread to every county’

HEROIN has “spread to every county” in Ireland with a rise of 130% in treatment cases outside Dublin since 2002, according to a new report.

Carlow has almost the same incidence of cases of heroin treatment as Dublin, followed by Laois and Louth. Incidence refers to the number of new treatment cases compared with the population of the county.

In a second of two reports, the Health Research Board (HRB) reports a near doubling of cases for cocaine treatment across the country.

“The number of cases presenting for treatment is increasing and this number is only an indication of the level of problem substance use in the wider community,” said Dr Jean Long, head of Alcohol and Drugs Research at the HRB.

She said the rise was due to more treatment places, better reporting and increased usage.

The first report, covering opiates (mainly heroin), shows:

nA 31% increase in total opiate cases, from 8,804 in 2002 to 11,538 in 2007.

nA 42% jump in new cases, from 809 to 1,151.

Some 66% of all cases in 2007 are continuous care cases, 22% are previously treated cases, while 10% are new cases.

“The data on heroin users treated for the first time indicate that the highest numbers and rates were in Dublin, but that heroin use had spread to every county in Ireland, with a steady increase in numbers in the midlands, the north-east and the south-east,” said Dr Long.

She said the incidence rate had actually fallen in Dublin by 19% between 2002 and 2007, but the rate outside Dublin had jumped by nearly 130%.

The map shows the spread of heroin across the country, with significant incidence rates along the east coast and the midlands, the south-east and Limerick.

In Dublin, the highest number of new heroin cases are in the north inner city, Clondalkin, north-east Dublin and Tallaght.

The report on cocaine highlights a massive 500% rise in the number of people reporting cocaine as their main problem drug, rising from 128 in 2002 to 770 in 2007.

But Dr Long said that, despite the increase, the actual number still “remained relatively low”. She said cocaine was mainly used as a secondary drug, rather than the main problem drug.

Cases of cocaine as an additional figure rose by 130%, from 826 to 1,885. She said that, in Dublin, cocaine was reported as an additional drug to opiates. Outside Dublin, cocaine was mainly used with alcohol, cannabis and ecstasy.

The report showed that the annual incidence of cocaine cases (see graphic) was highest in the south-east (Wexford, Waterford and Carlow), the north-east (Louth) and the south (Cork and Limerick). Numbers are lower in Dublin because it is mainly used as secondary drug.

The report shows the number of crack users increased between 2002 (57) and 2006 (70), but then jumped in 2007 (223).

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