Cocaine users urged to take test dose, use sterile straws, and not share straws

Cocaine users are being urged to take a “small test dose” and not to consume any more for at least two hours under a new State-backed awareness campaign.

Cocaine users urged to take test dose, use sterile straws, and not share straws

In a joint harm reduction effort by the HSE and the Ana Liffey Drug Project, users are also advised to grind cocaine to remove clumps, to use their own sterile straw when sniffing it, and to never share the straw.

The #DoYouUseCocaine? initiative is being taken on the back of a range of indicators showing a rise in the supply and use of cocaine.

Last June, the European drugs agency reported that the cocaine market was “buoyant”, citing rising coca cultivation and cocaine production in Latin America and indications of increased availability in a number of countries.

It said the number of cocaine seizures had increased and that they were back to the peak levels of 2008.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction said there was an upward trend in cocaine purity, reaching its highest level in the past decade in 2016.

The Health Research Board reported a 90% jump in new treatments for cocaine use in the last four years, reaching record highs. Numbers rose from 297 in 2012, to 568 in 2016.

This followed separate figures which showed a rise in drug-related deaths involving cocaine, doubling from 21 in 2010 to 44 in 2015.

Eamon Keenan, HSE clinical lead for addiction services, said the indicators suggested a return “to pre-crash levels” of cocaine use in Ireland.

We strongly advise that it is safer not to use unknown or illicit drugs,” said Dr Keenan at the campaign launch, but said that if people decided to take the drug, they should take harm reduction advice.

This included:

- When buying, know your source and avoid using alone;

- Use one drug at a time and never mix with alcohol;

- Start with a small test dose and leave at least two hours between use;

- Grind cocaine to remove clumps, use your own sterile straw, and never share straws;

- Carry a condom, as cocaine can increase your sex drive.

Treatment figures also show a rise in cases of crack cocaine use, from 9% of cases in 2010 to 11% in 2016.

Speaking at the launch, Tony Duffin of Ana Liffey said the project had experienced a slight increase in crack use recently.

The campaign advises crack users to avoid using homemade crack pipes and not to share, to avoid smoking a full ‘rock’ and, if injecting, start low and go slow to avoid overdose.

Launching the initiative, drugs strategy minister Catherine Byrne said the campaign played a vital role in “communicating the risks and dangers” of cocaine use to dependent users, at-risk groups as well as recreational users. She said that, under the national drugs strategy, the Government was working to “strengthen early harm-reduction responses”.

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