“The drug cliché of the rich is long gone. It’s everywhere now ‘

Ireland has the third highest rate of cocaine use in Europe, and there are growing concerns about the long-term consequences of unprecedented levels of use among young people

Powdered cocaine has a special place in drug culture. Unlike its more sinister cousin, crack (cocaine in the form of a smokable rock), powdered cocaine has, to some extent, retained a veil of mystique and glamor. A symbol of wealth and excess. White lines on silver platters. The drug of the young professional.

Of course, the reality of cocaine use rarely, if ever, resembles this portrayal. But his relatively glamorous image might explain why he has become so popular in Ireland. Cocaine was the second most frequently cited drug among cases treated for problem drug use in 2020, after opiates, according to the Health Research Board (HRB). The number of people seeking treatment for cocaine addiction tripled between 2014 and 2020, from 853 to 2,619. In 2019, HRB reported that cocaine use in Ireland had “returned to Celtic Tiger levels” .

Anecdotal accounts from hospitality and gardaí workers describe towns and villages as inundated with cocaine, even during the pandemic and its restrictions on nightlife

Cocaine use appears to be linked to periods of prosperity. The rates of cocaine seizures and cocaine-related arrests have long moved along with Ireland’s economic fortunes. In 2007/2008, its use was at its highest level when our economy was the foamy.

But recent figures show cocaine use on the rise again, and anecdotal accounts from hospitality and gardaí workers describe towns as “inundated” with drugs, even during the pandemic and associated restrictions on nightlife. .

Denis *, a Dubliner in his early twenties, describes cocaine’s appeal to him: “The disinhibition factor is important, if I’m in a large setting with a lot of people drinking, then I find that I socialize better. when i’m energized. that, even if there is the risk of speaking sh * te.

He believes the pandemic has led to an increase in cocaine use in Dublin: “The only socialization you could do, and most of the time it wasn’t technically allowed anyway, was to go to people’s homes. other people. When you’re at someone’s house you’re kind of free to do it openly, there’s no risk of getting caught.

Denis also says that among his group of friends, the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) helped fuel increased cocaine use, with many of his friends on higher incomes compared to their part-time jobs before Covid. , and less expenses. He does not think the drugs are “everywhere” in Dublin, but rather that they are prevalent in certain workplaces, colleges and groups of friends.

“I sometimes meet other groups of people on nightlife and they are shocked at how normal it is as drinking or smoking cigarettes for me and my friends, but I also often meet people who wouldn’t blink. ”

You can feel interesting, sociable, and confident when taking cocaine, whereas you may not necessarily feel these things at a party without it. Cocaine does the job

Seamus *, also in his early 20s, says he uses cocaine about twice a week. He sees it as a foolproof guarantee of a good time.

“The evenings are random. A lot of things must be going well; company, music, atmosphere. With the coke you can be in a room with four or five people chilling out after work, you can just call your boy up to drop a bag and the next thing you have a good chat you take the plane. You can feel interesting, sociable, and confident when you take it, whereas you can’t necessarily feel these things at a party without it. Cocaine does the job.

He says the old stereotype of rich young professionals using drugs has “completely disappeared.” “Everyone, everyone uses it. You would see it in all groups, regardless of class, age, profession, gender. And the drug is cheaper than before, he adds. “Gone are the days of paying 80 pounds for a gram of ag]. You pay € 40 or € 50 max these days. (It is estimated that an Irish cocaine user consumes an average of 0.6g of cocaine each time. that he uses drugs.)

The evidence supports Seamus’ belief that the drug now has wide appeal in Irish society. Figures consistently show that men are at least three times more likely to use cocaine than women, but the gap has narrowed. In the most recent HRB report, examining drug use in 2019-2020, a six-fold increase in cocaine use has been recorded among young women (aged 15-24) since 2016. The same study reported that since 2003, total cocaine use has more than doubled, although it temporarily declined following the 2008 recession.

The recreational user who socially consumes cocaine, who gets his 100 € of cocaine on a Friday or a Saturday evening, they are in the middle-class neighborhoods and the less wealthy neighborhoods

Ireland currently has the third highest rate of powdered cocaine use in Europe, behind Spain and the United Kingdom. During the previous peak of cocaine use in 2007, it was mainly concentrated in towns and cities. Today, it is as much a rural drug as it is an urban drug. In 2019, The Irish Times reported how cocaine had spread from large towns such as Letterkenny and Sligo to smaller rural villages in the northwest. A source from Garda quoted at the time said the average consumer was now “a farmer or a nurse.” . . it is universal ”.

“The cliché of cocaine as a ‘rich man’s drug’ is long gone; unfortunately it’s everywhere now, ”says Garda Mark Houlihan of the Dublin South Central Drug Unit. “The recreational user who uses it socially, who obtains his 100 € of cocaine on a Friday or a Saturday evening, they are in the middle-class neighborhoods and the less affluent neighborhoods.

“What you’ll notice when you walk into the pubs is it’s everywhere. You can hear people sniffing in the toilet, people are sniffing all over the place. It’s almost gotten jaded the way people talk about it, ‘I’m going to go out on the weekends and do a few lines, yeah’. ”

Houlihan says his unit conducted successful operations at a number of licensed premises across the city center before the pandemic: “You can see it when the toilet queue is like a sponsored walk, people entering and coming out every five minutes. ”

Echoing Denis and Seamus, he agrees that the cocaine market has become “uberized”.

No generation in Ireland or the UK has had this level of access to coke before, none. No one knows what the long term consequences will be

“We have had detections with [food delivery] drivers … People sell their products on WhatsApp and Snapchat and again that makes it very difficult. Are we going to go down the road of creating fake Instagram accounts, fake Snapchat accounts? There are obviously moral and ethical guidelines as well as our own professional guidelines that we need to consider before we proceed with this. ”

For WhatsApp transactions, Houlihan says new customers are required to have an existing customer vouch for them with the reseller. Once accepted, they are included in the mailing list and receive weekly “menus” with prices for ketamine, MDMA, cannabis and cocaine.

“It’s very difficult. Compare that to some guy hanging around the corner; we can certainly make a controlled purchase in that case, because we can have somebody who can take on the appearance of an addict and go up and buy from them, and they’re very well trained and they know exactly what to do. On the other hand, the garda notes that “if you want to do this online, behind a screen, it’s almost impossible, so you rely on the information coming from the public ”.

“No generation in Ireland or the UK has had this level of access to coke before, none,” says Seamus. “No one knows what the long term consequences will be. “

As a garda, Houlihan shares these concerns and remarks, “It’s much easier to get. Each generation has its challenge. The challenge for this generation is cocaine.

* Names have been changed

Read Conor’s story on cocaine addiction: “I just wanted more and more and more” here

Jack Ryan is a final year student at Trinity College Dublin and a freelance writer.

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