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Donovan, Anne Marie and Connolly, Johnny (2008) Crack cocaine in the Dublin region. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 28, Winter 2008 , pp. 3-4.

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On October 22 the Alcohol and Drug Research Unit of the Health Research Board (HRB) launched Crack cocaine in the Dublin region: an evidence base for a crack cocaine strategy on board the naval vessel the LE Eithne.1 The research was commissioned by the Intersectoral Crack Cocaine Strategy Group in response to a number of seizures of crack cocaine made by An Garda Síochána in the north inner city.

 The report indicates that the number of people using crack in Ireland remains low, with current users representing just 1% of drug users who present for treatment and 0.1% of the general population. However, the report also makes the point that, despite targeted Garda interventions, crack use has increased and availability has spread throughout the Dublin region. Launching the report, Minister of State John Curran TD said: ‘It is good news that the crack cocaine market has not taken hold in Ireland to the extent it has in other countries. However the report highlights the need to remain vigilant to ensure that this remains the case.’ The Minister also stated that the report will be central to the development of a timely strategic response through the new National Drugs Strategy which is being developed for 2009–2016.
 
The HRB conducted the research over a nine-month period beginning in August 2007, using a rapid situation assessment technique developed by the World Health Organization. This involved a multi-method approach which brought together existing research, and drug treatment and criminal justice data, supported by interviews with key informants such as drug users, gardaí, outreach workers and treatment specialists.
 
The emergence of crack
Crack cocaine is produced from powder cocaine using readily available chemicals such as ammonia and baking soda.  A number of factors may explain the rise in crack cocaine use in Dublin. These include the increased availability of powder cocaine; the presence of problematic opiate users who have used crack cocaine in the UK or in Europe and have resumed crack consumption while living in Dublin; and the presence of non-Irish nationals who have access to cocaine supply routes and experience of preparing crack cocaine.
 
Drug-using characteristics of crack users
The majority of crack users used more than one drug, opiates (mainly heroin) were the most common drugs used alongside crack. Smoking was the predominant route of administration. A proportion of intravenous users made a transition from injecting powder cocaine to smoking crack cocaine because of the physical harms of injecting. Frequency of use ranged from daily to weekly and was largely dependent on available financial resources.
 
Dublin crack market
The north inner city remains the primary crack market in Dublin; the market is dominated by non-Irish national dealers who import small amounts of cocaine via couriers. However, a growing number of Irish dealers are reported to be involved in the distribution of crack throughout the Dublin region, and prepared crack has been available throughout the city since 2006. Findings indicate that the crack market is a closed market, meaning that dealers do not sell to strangers, exchanges are generally arranged using mobile phones, and buyers are directed to exchange points outside the inner city. The price of crack is relatively stable and uniform, with prepared quantities or ‘rocks’ being sold for €50 or €100. Crack houses were reported as locations where crack was used and in some cases prepared in exchange for free crack; they were not reported as major venues for crack dealing or as sites for sex work.
 
Social profile and consequences of crack
A high proportion of crack users are homeless, unemployed and do not have formal educational qualifications. According to data from treatment services, the majority of crack users were male and half were aged between 20 and 29 years. However, females involved in sex work and single mothers were reported to develop the most chaotic addiction. Common physical side effects of crack use are breathing problems, heart problems and rapid weight loss, and the most common psychological consequences are paranoia, aggressiveness and depression. Compulsive crack users reported neglecting their children, often diverting their financial resources towards buying crack. Shoplifting, burglary and robbery were reported as common means for users to sustain their crack cocaine habit. Service providers also reported an increase in the numbers of women returning to or beginning sex work to fund their crack use.
 
Intervention strategies
International evidence indicates that effective intervention strategies are those which combine attempts to disrupt local markets, making them less predictable to buyers and sellers, with attempts to divert drug offenders into treatment services. The most successful approaches to reducing or ceasing crack use are psychosocial interventions such as cognitive behavioural therapy. However, these interventions can only be successful if the user is attracted to and retained in treatment.
 
A conference will take place on 24 February 2009 in Croke Park to further assess the findings of this report, with a view to developing a strategic response involving key agencies and local communities. 
 
This report is available in the publications section of the HRB website at www.hrb.ie. For further information about the conference, contact jconnolly@hrb.ie.
  
1. Connolly J, Foran S, Donovan AM, Carew AM and Long J (2008) Crack cocaine in the Dublin region: an evidence base for a crack cocaine strategy. HRB Research Series 6. Dublin: Health Research Board.
Item Type
Article
Issue Title
Date
2008
Page Range
pp. 3-4
Publisher
Health Research Board
Volume
Issue 28, Winter 2008
EndNote
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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