NINE out of 10 young people attending the country’s only residential drug treatment centre for adolescents have a cocaine problem.
The teenagers are spending €3,500 a month on cocaine and a further €500 a month on alcohol.
The Aislinn Adolescent Addiction Centre director, Declan Jones, said most come from a middle-class background.
He said some turned to drink and drugs because “dad and mum were high-fliers, working all the time” and were simply not around.
“In the last year, and particularly since the beginning of this year, nine out of 10 kids presenting to us have a cocaine issue. That is extraordinary. Three years ago it would have been rare,” said Mr Jones.
He said about 85% of those with a cocaine problem were current users, while 15% would have been in the past.
He said they treated young people aged between 15 and 21, but the average age was between 16 and 19.
They run a six-week residential programme at their centre in Kilkenny, the only one in the country for that age group.
“Most of them do not come from broken homes or have parents who are alcoholics or drug addicts. Most are coming from the professional classes.
“Parents come from all the professions, from politicians to doctors,” he said.
Mr Jones said most start drinking at age 11 and begin using illegal drugs by age 13 or 14. Alcohol was the real “gateway drug”, he said.
He said cocaine appeared to be more socially acceptable than cannabis in the pub scene.
“Anyone coming into us drinking and taking cocaine is spending up to €4,000 a month — €3,500 of that on cocaine. Most are then dealing to support their habit.
“They are then in debt with suppliers, living in fear, then violence becomes part of their lives.
“That’s where the gangs come in and the knives and the swords and now it’s the guns.
“All are carrying weapons or have access to them. It’s no longer unusual for parents to ring up and say ‘I’m after finding swords and knives in his bedroom, what will I do?’”
He said those on cocaine were very aggressive.
“They are so agitated, we have to use holistic therapy for about 10 days to bring them down to a place where they can talk about it.”