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Long, Jean (2008) Cocaine use in Ireland. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 28, Winter 2008 , pp. 4-6.

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The fourth bulletin of results from the 2006/2007 all-Ireland general population drug prevalence survey focuses on cocaine use in the adult population (15–64 years) and patterns of cocaine use.1 The Minister of State with responsibility for drugs strategy, Mr John Curran TD, launched the findings for Ireland. The final achieved sample was 4,967 in Ireland. This represented a response rate of 65%. This article highlights some of those findings and, in addition, presents unpublished data from the National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS) and the National Drug-Related Deaths Index (NDRDI).

Cocaine use increased in 2006/7 compared to 2002/3.2 The proportion of adults who reported using cocaine (including crack) at some point in their lives increased from 3% in 2002/3 to 5% in 2006/7 (Table 1). The proportion of young adults who reported using cocaine in their lifetime also increased, from 5% in 2002/3 to 8% in 2006/7. As expected, more men reported using cocaine in their lifetime than women, 7% compared to 3.5%.

The proportion of adults who reported using cocaine in the last year (recent use) increased from 1% in 2002/3 to 2% in 2006/7 (Table 1). The proportion of young adults who reported using cocaine in the last year increased from 2% in 2002/3 to 3% in 2006/7.

The proportion of adults who reported using cocaine in the last month (current use) remained stable at under 1%.

Table 1   Lifetime, last-year and last-month prevalence of cocaine use (including crack) in Ireland, 2002/3 and 2006/7

Cocaine use

Adults

15–64 years

%

Males

15–64 years

%

Females

15–64 years

%

Young adults

15–34 years

%

 

2002/3

2006/7

2002/3

2006/7

2002/3

2006/7

2002/3

2006/7

Lifetime

3.0

5.3

4.3

7.0

1.6

3.5

4.7

8.2

Last year

1.1

1.7

1.7

2.3

0.5

1.0

2.0

3.1

Last month

0.3

0.5

0.7

0.8

0.0

0.2

0.7

1.0

Source: National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Drug and Alcohol Information and Research Unit (2006, 2008)

Of the 4,967 survey respondents, 5% had used cocaine powder; crack cocaine use was rarely reported (0.6%). Half of all cocaine powder users commenced cocaine use before they were 22 years old, while half of all crack users commenced before they were 20 years old.

Of the 25 current cocaine powder users, just over 68% used cocaine less than once per week, while 25% used it at least once per week. All of the current cocaine powder users reported snorting the drug.

Of the 79 recent cocaine powder users, only 9% obtained their cocaine from a person who was not known to them. Cocaine powder was most commonly obtained at the home of a friend (43%) or at a disco, bar or club (36%). Almost two-thirds of recent cocaine powder users said that cocaine powder was easy to obtain within a 24-hour period.

Of the 35 self-defined ‘regular’ cocaine powder users, almost 82% had successfully stopped taking cocaine. The most common reasons for discontinuing were: concerns about its health effects (28%), could no longer afford it (17%), impact on employment, family and friends (11%), did not enjoy it any more (8.7%), attended a rehabilitation programme (8.2%) and did not want to continue using it (8.2%).

The findings of this survey should be interpreted with care in view of the small number of responses on which the patterns of cocaine use are based. The socially excluded population is unlikely to be represented in a general population survey of this kind; its members may not live at a fixed address or, if listed, may be difficult to locate for interview.

Analysis from the NDTRS indicates a sustained increase between 2001 and 2007 in the number of cases who entered treatment and reported cocaine as a problem drug. The number of treated cases reporting cocaine as a main problem drug increased considerably, from 81 in 2001 to 770 in 2007 (Table 2), of whom 79% used one or more additional drugs. The number of cases reporting cocaine as an additional problem drug doubled from 624 in 2001 to 1,362 in 2007 (Table 3). 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 and cannabis (Table 4). 

Table 2   Cases entering treatment for cocaine as a main problem drug, 2001 to 2007

 

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

 

Number (%)

All cases entering treatment

4797

4948

5054

4506

4877

5191

5684

Cases reporting cocaine as

main problem drug

81 (1.7)

128 (2.6)

253 (5.0)

331 (7.3)

467 (9.6)

552 (10.6)

770 (13.5)

Of whom:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New cases

43

61

148

195

275

342

462

Previously treated cases

31

56

96

119

175

194

290

Treatment status not known

7

11

9

17

17

16

18

Source: Unpublished data from the NDTRS

Table 3   Cases entering treatment who reported cocaine as an additional problem drug, 2001 to 2007

 

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

 

Number (%)

All cases reporting an additional problem drug

3459

3582

3760

3157

3401

3692

3816

Cases reporting cocaine as an additional problem drug

624 (18.0)

829 (23.1)

1095 (29.1)

1029 (32.6)

1144 (33.6)

1362 (36.9)

1368 (35.8)

Of whom:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New cases

223

304

421

355

401

477

502

Previously treated cases

377

490

650

648

717

827

836

Treatment status not known

24

35

24

26

26

58

30

Source: Unpublished data from the NDTRS

 

Table 4   Main problem drug and associated additional drugs used by new cases entering treatment, 2001 to 2007

New cases

4708

769

1064

99

228

160

4999

 

Main problem drug

 

Opiates

Ecstasy

Cocaine

Amphet-amines

Benzo-diazepines

Volatile inhalants

Cannabis

Additional problem drug(s) used*

Number (%)

Opiates

751 (16.0) †

16 (2.1)

78 (7.3)

1 (1.0)

36 (15.8)

2 (1.3)

128 (2.6)

Ecstasy

447 (9.5)

 

394 (37.0)

49 (49.5)

32 (14.0)

11 (6.9)

1897 (37.9)

Cocaine

1029 (21.9)

206 (26.8)

12 (1.1)†

25 (25.3)

37 (16.2)

3 (1.9)

865 (17.3)

Amphetamines

89 (1.9)

183 (23.8)

109 (10.2)

 

4 (1.8)

2 (1.3)

528 (10.6)

Benzodiazepines

1029 (21.9)

20 (2.6)

67 (6.3)

2 (2.0)

9 (3.9)†

1 (0.6)

117 (2.3)

Volatile inhalants

17 (0.4)

15 (2.0)

5 (0.5)

1 (1.0)

3 (1.3)

8 (5.0)†

118 (2.4)

Cannabis

1866 (39.6)

489 (63.6)

611 (57.4)

60 (60.6)

56 (24.6)

47 (29.4)

6 (0.1)†

Alcohol

466 (9.9)

341 (44.3)

497 (46.7)

36 (36.4)

103 (45.2)

57 (35.6)

2389 (47.8)

* By cases reporting use of one, two or three additional drugs

† Additional problem drug(s) used may be a form of drug in the same family as the main problem drug.

Source: Unpublished data from the NDTRS

In 2007, of the 770 cases who reported cocaine as their main problem drug, 81% snorted it, 13% smoked it, and 4% injected it. Cocaine use by the same 770 cases in the month prior to treatment was reported as follows: 13% used it daily, 44% used it between two and six days per week, 11% used it once per week or less and 30% had not used it. Of note, no respondent participating in the NACD population-based survey reported injecting cocaine, compared to 4% of the treated cases. As expected, the frequency of cocaine use among treated cases was considerably higher than that among the general survey population.

In 2007, half of the treated cases for whom cocaine was the main problem drug had commenced its use before they were 20 years old, and 85% were men. In 2007, there were 2,643 treated cases who reported cocaine as one of their problem drugs, of whom 1,107(41%) lived in the eastern region (Dublin, Kildare or Wicklow) and 1,536 (58%) lived elsewhere in Ireland. The demographic characteristics indicate that cocaine is available throughout Ireland.

According to data from the National Drug-Related Deaths Index, the number of poisoning deaths in which cocaine was implicated, alone or with another drug, increased steadily from five in 1998 to 34 in 2005.3 In that eight-year period, cocaine was involved in 100 (6.4%) deaths by poisoning. Of these, 29 (29.0%) were due to cocaine alone.  Heroin and/or methadone were often associated with cocaine in cases of polysubstance poisoning. (Jean Long)

  1. National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Drug and Alcohol Information and Research Unit (2008) Drug use in Ireland and Northern Ireland. 2006/2007 drug prevalence survey: cocaine results. Bulletin 4. Dublin: National Advisory Committee on Drugs.
  2. National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Drug and Alcohol Information and Research Unit (2006) Drug use in Ireland and Northern Ireland. 2002/2003 drug prevalence survey: cocaine results. Bulletin 4. Dublin: National Advisory Committee on Drugs.
  3. Lyons S, Lynn E, Walsh S and Long J (2008) Trends in drug-related deaths and deaths among drug users in Ireland, 1998 to 2005. HRB Trends Series 4. Dublin: Health Research Board.
Item Type:Article
Issue Title:Issue 28, Winter 2008
Date:2008
Page Range:pp. 4-6
Publisher:Health Research Board
Volume:Issue 28, Winter 2008
EndNote:View
Accession Number:HRB (Available)
Subjects:B Substances > Cocaine
HJ Treatment method > Substance disorder treatment method
VA Geographic area > Europe > Ireland
A Substance use, abuse, and dependence > Prevalence > Substance use behaviour

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