A new report on drug treatment services in Ireland has revealed a significant increase in the number of people treated for cocaine use over the last seven years.
The Health Research Board's (HRB) 'Drug Treatment Data' bulletin - released today Tuesday June 14 - states the number of cases treated for cocaine as a main drug jumped from 1,026 in 2015 to 3,248 in 2021.
This marks an increase of 217%.
According to the Minister for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, Frank Feighan TD, the report demonstrates the continuing demand for health services to address the effects of drug use.
He said, "Strengthening early harm reduction responses to drug use, including cocaine and crack cocaine, is a strategic priority in the National Drugs Strategy. I welcome the HSE-led initiative to reduce the health-related harms from cocaine and crack cocaine in four Community Healthcare Organisations, including Dublin, Cork, and Kerry.
"This initiative includes specific training for staff as well as supports which will help to empower communities to tackle this issue.
As per the report, a total of 69,450 cases were treated for problem drug use in a seven year period across Ireland, with almost 11,000 treated in 2021.
Polydrug use was reported by over half of cases last year, with cannabis noted as the most common additional drug followed by cocaine (36%), benzodiazepines (36%) and alcohol (35.8%).
Four thousand two hundred and six new people were receiving treatment for drug use in 2021, marking an increase of 410 since 2020 and 227 more than in 2019.
Minister Feighan continued: "The increased provision of treatment services reflects the government’s commitment to a public health response to drug use and the allocation of additional resources to services in 2021. I want to commend the resilience of drug services during the Covid-19 pandemic and their ability to expand services to meet demand following the lifting of public health restrictions."
The data shows the proportion of cases who have ever injected drugs decreased from 33.7% in 2015 to 21.0% in 2021 and - among cases who had injected in 2021 - 41.4% had shared needles and syringes.
Opioids were the most common main problem drug reported in 2021 (with heroin accounting for 87% of all opioid cases), with the proportion of cases treated decreasing from 48% in 2015 to 34% in 2021.
Cocaine was the second most common main problem drug last year among new cases, while cannabis was the third most common and benzodiazepines accounted for 11% of cases in 2021.
Minister Feighan noted drug use by parents and guardians of children aged 17 years or younger as a particular concern.
He said, "I am concerned about the impact on children and families of parental drug use. We need to provide services for children and families to help them cope with the effects of parental drug use and to support the implementation of the HSE-Tusla good practice guide on hidden harm.
"I would urge anyone with concerns regarding their own drug and alcohol use, or that of a family member or friend, to seek support from your GP, local services or contact the drug and alcohol helpline on 1800 459 459. The helpline provides support, information and guidance for any person who is concerned about their own drug or alcohol use, or that of a family member or friend."
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