Addiction counsellors in Cork are seeing the first cases of women hooked on crack cocaine.
According to counsellors at the Cuan Mhuire treatment centre for women, addiction to crack cocaine was unheard of until recent times.
However, a number of women have become addicted to the powerful drug and sought help from the treatment centre this year.
Gardaí have also confirmed that they are now seeing more of the deadly drug on Cork’s streets, although a spokesman said that the number of seizures is still low compared to other drugs.
The majority of crack cocaine seizures are small quantities for personal use, but there has been a noticeable increase in these over the past two years.
Counsellor at Cuan Mhuire, Michael Guerin, said presentations for treatment for crack cocaine would “almost have been unheard of” up to this year.
Crack cocaine is either smoked or injected, similar to heroin.
It is made by combining cocaine powder with ammonia or baking soda, and boiling it.
When cooled, the new substance is similar to crystals.
Up to 10 women who were hooked on crack have sought treatment from the Cuan Mhuire centre in Farnanes this year, compared with none previously.
In June, the 2018 annual report from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction highlighted that there have been increases in the number of clients presenting for treatment for crack cocaine addiction in Ireland and five other European countries, including the UK, since 2014.
The highs from crack cocaine are short-lived, resulting in the drug becoming highly addictive as users continue to chase the high. Tolerance of it also increases, meaning users have to take more to get the same high.
The drug was first seen in the US in the 1980s and resulted in major social problems in inner-city areas across the country.
It results in overdose-related deaths and a spiral of crime by addicts who need money to pay for their habit.
In Dublin, pilot projects are underway to target crack cocaine users, with a crack pipe distribution project aimed at harm reduction among addicts.
The use of cocaine powder in Cork has been increasing in recent years following the end of the recession. Just last week, gardaí in North Cork highlighted that cannabis and cocaine are the most common drugs detected in cases of drug driving.
In June, two men were arrested in Cork City in connection with an incident in which cocaine was used on a train from Dublin.
Mr Guerin said there has been a 10% increase in cocaine admissions at the Farnanes centre in the past year.
He added: “There is a waiting list of approximately 50-60 clients — probably double what it was two years ago.
There have been increases in presentations for codeine dependence — both prescribed and over the counter.
According to Mr Guerin, half of the clients at the Farnanes centre are there for heroin-related addiction.
He added: “It is worth pointing out that HSE South addiction services had the foresight to collaborate with ourselves in an opioid detox initiative. The results have been impressive.”