Home > Health Service Executive facilitates workshop on cocaine.

Sinclair, Hamish and Long, Jean (2006) Health Service Executive facilitates workshop on cocaine. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 18, Summer 2006, p. 11.

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On 3 May 2006 the Heath Service Executive (HSE) organised a workshop on cocaine, bringing together HSE staff and representation from the voluntary, community and statutory sectors. Opening the workshop, Alice O’Flynn, National Care Group Manager for Social Inclusion, stated that the growing problem of cocaine was an important issue for the HSE. An overview of the workshop was given by Cathal Morgan, HSE National Drugs Strategy manager. The aims of the workshop were to:

  • Provide an overview of prevalence in relation to cocaine (including crack) use.
  • Identify current key responses in relation to cocaine.
  • Identify models of best practice based on research evidence.
  • Discuss future responses to cocaine.

The workshop began with a series of presentations followed by group work.

Dr Eamon Keenan, clinical director of the HSE South Western Area Addiction Services, presented data on the prevalence of cocaine use in the general population and on treatment for problem cocaine use from 1998 to 2003.  The number of treated cases reporting problem cocaine use increased considerably over this period.  Of note, a substantial and increasing number of treated cases reported cocaine as an additional problem drug.  Dr Keenan highlighted the need for more timely information in respect of both prevalence and treatment figures.

Dr Richard Maguire, principal biochemist at the Drug Treatment Centre Board, reported a rise in the number of methadone clients testing positive for cocaine use between 1998 and 2005. His findings mirrored the trend in cocaine use observed in the treatment data on additional problem drugs.

Detective Superintendent Barry O’Brien, Garda National Drugs Unit, presented the most recent data on cocaine and diamorphine (mainly heroin) offences and seizures.  He reported that cocaine offences (as a proportion of all drug offences) had increased almost sevenfold between 2000 and 2005, from 2% to 13%, while diamorphine offences had remained high but the trend was relatively stable, increasing from 9% to 11% over the same time period. In terms of cocaine and diamorphine seizures, similar trends were observed. Cocaine was now being seized in many towns throughout the country.

Tony Geoghegan, director of Merchants Quay Ireland, gave a presentation on the treatment of cocaine from the voluntary drug treatment perspective and reported an increase in the number of cocaine users attending harm-reduction services. 

Anna Quigley, manager of CityWide, presented the current effects of cocaine use on communities in Dublin.  She said that the cocaine market is based in pubs or operates through mobile phone contact.  According to Ms Quigley, alcohol and cocaine use are closely associated.  She highlighted a number of social and economic consequences of cocaine use, such as debt, violence and insecurity. 

Dr Brion Sweeney, clinical director of the HSE Northern Area Addiction Services, presented the evidence base for the treatment of problem cocaine use and stated that cogitative behavioural therapy in conjunction with other interventions was the most successful form of treatment.  He went on to state that prompt, accessible and tailored interventions increased the effectiveness of such treatment.  He pointed out that the evidence indicated that the use of medication in the treatment of cocaine dependence had little effect, but that new developments were expected in this area.  

Following the presentations, participants were divided into small groups and asked to respond to a series of questions. Each group was asked to prioritise four key principles that they considered important in responding to the issue of cocaine. In addition, each group was asked to suggest ideas for a follow-up to the current workshop.

A number of common themes came out of the feedback from the different groups. Among these were:


  • The response to the growing cocaine problem requires a co-ordinated approach, involving statutory, voluntary and community groups.
  • The perception of cocaine as a ‘clean and safe’ drug needs to be changed.
  • The availability of cocaine in pubs tends to link the drug with alcohol and gave it an ‘acceptability’ which needs to be addressed.
  • Appropriate outreach services need to be developed to bring difficult-to-reach cocaine users into contact with treatment services.
  • Approaches to treatment need to be timely and evidence based.
  • Existing treatment services need to be enhanced, rather than new services specifically for cocaine created.
  • More timely information is required to monitor, at an early stage, the emergence of new drugs and the changing patterns of current drug use.

Acknowledging the success of this event, participants felt that a follow-up workshop should be organised later in the year to review progress. At the close of the meeting, Cathal Morgan thanked participants and indicated that the HSE would produce a report on the day’s proceedings and that action would be taken on the basis of the workshop outcomes.

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Intervention Type
Education and training
Issue Title
Issue 18, Summer 2006
April 2006
Page Range
p. 11
Health Research Board
Issue 18, Summer 2006
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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