Crack cocaine is an epidemic which is fuelling violence, tragedy, and a future public health crisis, a leading addiction counsellor has warned.
Micheal Guerin of addiction charity Cuan Mhuire said “someone would want to put a gun to the Government’s head” to make them urgently address the crisis.
He said Cuan Mhuire is now seeing young people in their 20s and 30s with the chronic health problems of people in their 70s and 80s from drug abuse who will need medical care for the rest of their lives.
Two recovering crack addicts from Cork told the that the drug led them to dealing to feed their habit which could cost up to €1,000 a night, stab people, steal, serve time in prison, lose their homes and end up on the streets contemplating suicide.
They said that the drug, which hooked them immediately with its intense but short-lived high, is now everywhere.
“Cork is riddled with crack,” James, 29, said. “Every drug dealer in Cork is selling it.
Crack gets hold of you straight away. It’s so instant. It’s that euphoric feeling multiplied by 100 compared to heroin.
“But it’s gone like that. In a minute. So you could easily spend €1,000 a night on it if you had the money.
“The high only lasts for a few minutes so you’re constantly chasing it, you can never have enough,” said former user Aaron, 26.
“Eventually it completely wrecks your life.”
A Health Research Board report published this month found the number of people being treated for crack cocaine use increased by 44% between 2018 and last year.
And the numbers being treated for cocaine use overall have tripled since 2013.
Mr Guerin believes the ready availability and growing acceptability of cocaine is creating the crack epidemic.
“Twenty years ago if you came across a crack cocaine user in Ireland you’d have been taking photographs it was such a rare thing. They weren’t there,” he said.
“We just heard of these anecdotal, mythical crack users. But about two years ago we started getting people coming into us saying they were doing crack cocaine.
The 44% increase in crack use is born of the fact that cocaine has become so available and so acceptable in Ireland.
“In the same way the opiate crisis in the US was fuelled by the prescribing of things like OxyContin a decade ago, the problems we’re seeing with crack cocaine use here is from unfettered access to power cocaine, a problem which really hasn’t been dealt with.”
He called for the Government to “write a robust national drugs strategy that sets measurable, feasible objectives within the short to medium term” which is something, he said, that the current strategy fails to do.
Gardaí say they observed a significant drug transaction during a surveillance operation in the Ballincollig area at around 5.30pm.
A car and two houses were searched during a follow-up operation and the drugs, along with items relating to the sale and supply of drugs were seized.
The men, aged in the 40s, were arrested and are being held at Gurranbraher and Mayfield garda stations.
Separately, €55,000 worth of cannabis was seized during a joint-agency operation involving Cork City Divisional Drug Unit, Mayfield District Drug Union, the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau and Revenue.
In a statement, gardaí say a controlled delivery was carried out at a business premises in Cork. The package weighed around 2.3kg and contained suspected cannabis herb.
During a search of the premises another quantity of cannabis was seized.
No arrests were made and investigations are ongoing.