Home > 2006 European report on the drugs problem.

Galvin, Brian (2006) 2006 European report on the drugs problem. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 20, Winter 2006, p. 5.

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The latest facts and figures on drug use across Europe, and by country, are contained in the 11th annual report of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) launched on 24 November. The report includes information on the situation in Ireland provided by the Drug Misuse Research Division of the Health Research Board (HRB), which is the Irish national focal point for the EMCDDA.  The report points to an increase in cocaine use, as evidenced by a rise in the numbers receiving treatment for cocaine use and in the number of prosecutions for possession of the drug.  There is also evidence of changing patterns in drug use by females.


Figures from the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) 2002/2003 general population survey show that 3% of the 4,918 respondents had used some form of cocaine at least once in their lives, with just over 1% having used cocaine in the last year (recent use). The proportions of the general population reporting cocaine use in 2002/2003 were similar to the European averages. The number of cases entering treatment and reporting cocaine as their main problem drug increased from 86 in 1998 to 352 in 2004. This figure represents 8% of the total number of cases entering treatment for drug use, which puts Ireland just below the European average of 12%. In 2005, cocaine-related prosecutions accounted for just under 13% of the total, surpassing heroin-related prosecutions (11%) for the first time.  The available data from An Garda Síochána and Customs suggest a significant increase in cocaine trafficking in Ireland in recent years.  The Garda National Drugs Unit also reports a fall in the price of cocaine per gram.

Drug supply

There has been a fall in the price of illicit drugs across Europe over the past five years. In Ireland, although there is evidence that the prices of ecstasy and cocaine have decreased over the last decade, the absence of a standardised method of monitoring current drug prices or trends over time makes it difficult to comment authoritatively in this area.  The EMCDDA reports upward trends in heroin and cocaine seizures in most of Europe. Cannabis seizures account for the vast majority of all drugs seized in Ireland. The total quantity of heroin seized in Europe increased steadily since 1999, and in 2004 reached a record level, up 10% on the previous year. Since 2001, the annual number of heroin seizures in Ireland has remained relatively stable at around 700 seizures.  In 2005, 725 seizures were reported.  The EMCDDA reports that there has been an increase over the last five years in the number and quantity of cocaine seizures and this is also true in Ireland.

 Injecting drug use and blood-borne viruses

Of the 3,403 cases entering treatment in 2004 who reported an opiate as one of their problem drugs, and who had their injecting status recorded, 74% had ever injected and 37% had injected in the month prior to treatment.   According to data from prevalence studies, around one-tenth of injecting drug users in drug treatment are HIV positive. By European standards, Ireland is categorised as medium-prevalence in terms of HIV (with a HIV prevalence rate between 5% and 10% among injecting drug users).  Data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre indicate a fall in the number of newly diagnosed HIV cases among injecting drug users between 1994 and 1998.  Annual averages indicate a true increase in the number of HIV cases among injecting drug users since 1999. The results of prevalence studies indicate that around 70% of injecting drug users attending drug treatment tested positive for antibodies to the hepatitis C virus. By European standards, Ireland is defined as high-prevalence in terms of hepatitis C (with a hepatitis C prevalence rate over 60% among injecting drug users).

Drug-related deaths

Direct-drug-related deaths are those occurring as a result of overdose. According to data from the General Mortality Register, there was a substantial increase in the number of drug-related deaths between 1995 and 1999, followed by a considerable decline between 2000 and 2002. This decline is in line with trends in drug-related deaths throughout Europe.  In 2003, the number of drug-related deaths outside Dublin exceeded for the first time the number of drug-related deaths in Dublin. The data for outside Dublin follow trends in problem opiate use in that geographical area.  


As in Europe, in terms of lifetime prevalence, almost twice as many men in Ireland (24%) as women (13%) reported ever using an illegal drug. However, the number of school-going girls who had ever used cannabis increased by 10%, from 29% in 1999 to 39% in 2003. The corresponding increase for boys was 3%. Of the 4,671 cases entering treatment in 2004, 1,212 (26%) were female. The European average rate for female cases treated was 20%.  Since 1999 a specialised service for pregnant drug users has been provided through a drug-liaison midwife at each of the three Dublin maternity hospitals. These midwives have formal links to community-based addiction centres.  There was a steady increase in the number of drug-related deaths among women, from one in 1994 to 28 in 2000, and a levelling off in 2001 (at 25) and a small decrease in 2002 (to 21) and a small increase (to 28) in 2003.  

For a copy of the EMCDDA Annual Report 2006 and related press material, log on to the EMCDDA website at www.emcdda.europa.eu  The DMRD media briefing on the report is on the HRB website at www.hrb.ie

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) is the central reference point for drug information in the EU. Its role is to provide the EU and its member states with objective, reliable and comparable information on drugs and drug addiction. The main information sources for the EMCDDA are the national focal points set up in each EU member state and in Norway.


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