Home > New information on cocaine use in Ireland.

Long, Jean (2006) New information on cocaine use in Ireland. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 17, Spring 2006 . pp. 7-8.

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On 12 January 2006, the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) in Ireland and the Drugs and Alcohol Information and Research Unit within the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland published jointly the fourth bulletin of results from the 2002/2003 all-Ireland general population drug prevalence survey.1 This latest bulletin focuses on cocaine use in the adult population (15–64 years) and patterns of cocaine use. Minister of State with responsibility for drugs strategy, Mr Noel Ahern TD, launched the findings for Ireland. This article highlights some of those findings and, in addition, presents unpublished data from the National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS).

Of the 4,918 survey respondents, 3% reported that they had used some form of cocaine at least once in their lives (ever use). Just over 1% had used cocaine in the last year (recent use). Only 0.3% had used it in the last month (current use). Of those who had used cocaine, the vast majority reported that they used cocaine powder; crack cocaine use was rarely reported. A higher proportion of younger (15–34 years) respondents had ever used cocaine (4.7%) compared to the proportion of older (35–64 years) respondents (1.4%). More male respondents (4.3%) had ever used cocaine than female respondents (1.6%). Half of all cocaine powder users commenced cocaine use before they were 20 years old, while half of all crack users commenced before they were 22 years old. There were 27 self-defined regular users of cocaine powder.

Of the 17 current cocaine powder users, just over 83% used cocaine less than once per week, while just under17% used it at least once per week. Just over 83% of current cocaine powder users snorted the drug, while no respondent injected it.

Of the 51 recent cocaine powder users, just over 28% obtained their cocaine from a person who was not known to them, indicating that cocaine use introduces people to cohorts of other users; this may have negative public health implications. Cocaine powder was most commonly obtained at the home of a friend (52%) or at a disco, bar or club (38%). Just under 68% of recent cocaine powder users said that cocaine powder was easy to obtain within a 24-hour period.

Of the 27 self-defined regular cocaine powder users, almost 62% had successfully stopped taking cocaine. The most common reasons for discontinuing it were: could no longer afford it (42%), did not want to continue using it (35%), were concerned about its health effects (32%) and were influenced by family and friends (32%).

The findings of this study should be interpreted with care, in view of the small number of responses on which the patterns of cocaine use are based. It should also be noted that there are special methods, such as nomination or snowballing techniques, to locate and interview drug users so as to investigate patterns and practices of cocaine or opiate use. In addition, a considerable proportion of the socially excluded population use cocaine and opiates and are unlikely to be represented in a general population survey. This is because they are unlikely to be included in a population-based list, as they do not reside at a fixed address or, if listed, are difficult to locate for interview.

Analysis from the NDTRS indicates a sustained increase between 1998 and 2003 in the number of treated cases reporting cocaine as a problem drug, particularly as an additional problem drug among opiate users. The number of treated cases reporting cocaine as a main problem drug increased by 262%, from 86 in 1998 to 311 in 2003 (Table 1). Of the 311 who reported cocaine as their main problem drug in 2003, 92% used one or more additional drugs. The number of cases reporting cocaine as an additional problem drug increased by almost 400%, from 454 in 1998 to 2,244 in 2003 (Table 2). When cocaine was reported as the main problem drug, cannabis, alcohol and ecstasy were the most common additional problem drugs, whereas when cocaine was reported as an additional problem drug the most common main problem drugs associated with its use were opiates, cannabis and ecstasy (Table 3). 

Table 1   All cases treated for cocaine as a main problem drug in Ireland and reported to the NDTRS, 1998 to 2003

 

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

 

Number (%)

All cases reported

6035

6206

6933

7900

8596

9084

Cocaine as main problem drug

86 (1.4)

57 (0.9)

78 (1.1)

95 (1.2)

155 (1.8)

311 (3.4)

Of whom:

 

 

 

 

 

 

New cases

32

27

33

46

65

157

Previously treated cases

50

29

42

41

76

145

Treatment status not known

4

1

3

8

14

9

Source: Unpublished data from the NDTRS

Table 2   All cases treated for cocaine as an additional problem drug in Ireland and reported to the NDTRS, 1998 to 2003

 

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

 

Number (%)

All cases reporting an

additional problem drug

4261

4317

4895

5378

6518

6891

Cocaine as a second, third

or fourth problem drug

454 (10.7)

786 (18.2)

916 (18.7)

1220 (22.7)

1716 (26.3)

2244 (32.6)

Of whom:

 

 

 

 

 

 

New cases

92

180

189

226

309

444

Previously treated cases

355

598

711

968

1367

1772

Treatment status not known

7

Item Type:Article
Issue Title:Issue 17, Spring 2006
Date:January 2006
Page Range:pp. 7-8
Publisher:Health Research Board
Volume:Issue 17, Spring 2006
EndNote:View
Accession Number:HRB (Available)
Subjects:B Drugs and alcohol substances > Cocaine
VA Geographic area > Europe > Ireland
A Drugs and alcohol use, abuse, and dependence > Prevalence of drugs and alcohol use

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