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Report shows rise in number of problem cocaine cases reported

Report shows rise in number of problem cocaine cases reported

Jonathan McCambridge, PA

Cocaine has overtaken heroin as the main problem drug among new reported cases in Ireland, a report has found.

The latest figures from the Health Research Board (HRB) show continued growth in the number of cases of people seeking treatment for problem cocaine use, with the figure tripling between 2015 and 2021.

Figures in the new HRB report National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS) 2015-2021 Drug Treatment Dataย show a total of 10,769 cases were treated for problem drug use in 2021.

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Two in every five of these cases were new to treatment. Almost one in three cases sought treatment for cocaine.

Opioids (which include heroin and methadone) were the main problem drug for which cases sought treatment, followed by cocaine, then cannabis and benzodiazepines.

Cocaine was the main problem drug among new cases.

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HRB chief executive Mairead Oโ€™Driscoll said: "This yearโ€™s drug treatment figures bring into sharp focus the growing prevalence of cocaine as a problem drug in Irish society.

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"By providing timely data the HRB can deliver important insights into trends in drug treatment that can inform policy and practice in relation to supporting treatment approaches as well as addressing risk factors and prevention."

Dr Suzi Lyons, senior researcher at the HRB, says: "We are observing a sustained increase in cocaine treatment year-on-year.

"In 2019 we saw cocaine overtake cannabis as the main problem drug; this year the numbers reported as seeking treatment for cocaine exceed those for heroin, which may mark a tipping point in Irish addiction trends.

"While we are seeing a decrease in the proportion of cocaine cases taking more than one drug, almost two-thirds are mixing cocaine with other drugs.

"This is a concern as mixing drugs can impact recovery and increase risk of overdose."

The report shows there was a threefold increase in the number of cases treated for cocaine as a main problem, from 1,026 in 2015 to 3,248 in 2021.

Cocaine was the second most common drug reported in 2021, accounting for almost a third of all cases.

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In 2021, for the first time, the NDTRS recorded more cocaine (3,248) than heroin (3,168) cases among those treated for drugs as a main problem.

Cocaine was the most common main drug among new cases in 2021.

The proportion of females reporting cocaine as a main problem drug is increasing.

Until 2020, females accounted for one in every five cases with cocaine as a main problem drug, which has risen to one in four cases in 2021.

Dr Lyons added: "We have seen some positive developments as regards risk behaviour, with the proportion of cases that had ever injected drugs decreasing from around one-third in 2015 to just over one-fifth in 2021.

"The reduction is even more notable for new cases, and in 2021 only 4 per cent reported ever injecting compared to 15 per cent in 2015.

"And while there has been an overall reduction in cases reporting cannabis as a main problem, there is an increase in the number of cases reporting it as an additional problem."

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