Documenting the figures, the European drugs agency said the strength of cannabis was now “historically high”, posing risks for intensive and long term use.
The 2016 annual report of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, launched yesterday, also shows
- Ireland has the third highest rate of drug-induced deaths in the EU’
- A “dramatic increase” in high-strength MDMA (ecstasy), including “super pills”. Ireland had the fourth highest seizure of ecstasy tablets in Europe in 2014;
- Young people are unwittingly acting as “human guinea pigs” in the booming market for new psychoactive drugs — with a further 98 such products seen last year.
Figures supplied to the monitoring centre by the Irish Health Research Board shows a rise in the number of drug-treatment cases (existing and new), from 8,684 in 2013 to 9,523 in 2014.
The figures, not previously published, show a 15% rise in the number of new cases, from 3,270 in 2012 to 3,774 in 2014. This includes significant increases:
- Cannabis: Up from 1,498 in 2012 to 1,696 in 2014 (up 15%);
- Benzodiazepines (tranquillisers): Jumping from 279 to 418 (up 50%);
- Cocaine: Rising from 297 to 424 (up 43%)
New opiate cases fell from 1,058 in 2012 to 1,032 in 2013, rising slightly to 1,036 in 2014. The report said the rise in cannabis treatment could be due to increased, and more intensive, usage and the “availability of more harmful and higher-potency products”.
While it said the causal link was difficult to establish it raised concerns around regular and long-term use, and regular use among adolescents. It said synthetic cannabis was “considerably more toxic” than natural cannabis and that “mass poisonings and even deaths” had been reported.
The report said Ireland had the third highest drug-death rate, almost four times higher than the EU average.
Speaking at the launch, EU Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said traffickers were using the migration crisis to smuggle drugs by “using desperate people”.