According to UN – The Irish Times, the Irish are the fourth highest cocaine users in the world

The Irish are the fourth highest relative cocaine users in the world, according to a new United Nations report.

According to the report, 2.4 percent of Irish people said they had used cocaine in the past year, the same as in the US and Austria. Only Australia, the Netherlands and Spain reported higher levels of cocaine use. Data for Ireland refer to 2019, the most recent data available.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Global Report on Cocaine 2023 also warned of the potential for future violence in Ireland due to competition for expanding cocaine markets and increasing use of crack cocaine.

The cocaine market has been hit hard by Covid-19, but this has had no impact on longer-term trends and production has now exceeded pre-pandemic rates, UNODC said. The amount of cocaine produced worldwide is reportedly more than double the amount produced in 2014.

Last year, the Health Research Board reported that the number of young people treated for cocaine abuse increased 171 percent between 2011 and 2019.

Western Europe has emerged as one of the world’s most important cocaine markets, the UN agency said. Seizures and use had either decreased or plateaued in 2020 due to Covid-19, but have since recovered strongly.

The purity of retail cocaine has also increased dramatically. In 2009, cocaine in Europe was about 35 percent pure. Now it averages more than 60 percent pure, the report says.

The agency said that Ireland’s cocaine trade is still mainly controlled by Irish gangs following the aftermath of the Hutch-Kinahan feud, which left 18 people dead.

But Albanian organized crime groups have also begun to establish themselves in Ireland. According to UNODC, there is still no evidence of these gangs interfering with the activities of more established Irish groups.

“However, analysts warn that the spread of cocaine use across different user groups in Ireland and the UK, and Ireland’s potential role as a transit country for British cocaine, are likely to lead to violent clashes in the future,” it said.

Violence and intimidation have been linked to the trafficking of cocaine in Irish communities, it said.

In downtown Dublin, users can pre-purchase cocaine for free. This causes individuals to accumulate large debts, which makes them victims of intimidation. In some cases, they are forced to intimidate others themselves.

UNODC notes the increasing involvement of children, some as young as 10, in intimidation, including throwing stones at houses and damaging cars.

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Although some disadvantaged communities perceive higher levels of drug-related violence and intimidation, “there is no systematic data to suggest an increase in violence over time”.

In terms of actual use of the drug, the vast majority of Irish users sniff nasally, the report said. Only 1 percent inject it and 2 percent eat or drink it.

Smoking is by far the most common way of using crack cocaine in Ireland. Only 3 percent of users say they inject the drug. According to UN – The Irish Times, the Irish are the fourth highest cocaine users in the world

Dais Johnston

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