COCAINE use has risen in recent weeks due to a chronic shortage of heroin, drug treatment services have said.
This is thought to be the first increase in cocaine usage in recent times, after a fall-off in consumption levels in the last two to three years.
The trend is being reported by several agencies in Dublin and HSE addiction experts in greater Dublin.
Other agencies, and the HSE addiction service in Cork, are seeing a rise in tranquillisers and anti-anxiety tablets among heroin users.
Some agencies also report drugs formerly sold in head shops being used.
The groups are concerned at the risk of overdoses among heroin addicts once supplies are resumed, as their tolerance levels have fallen.
"In the last four weeks, there has been a lack of heroin and it’s being referred to as a drought," said Tony Duffin of the Anna Liffey drop-in centre in Dublin.
"As a result people are taking alternatives. Experience is telling us there has been an increase in cocaine use, people are also smoking crack. There is also a rise in former head shops drugs. There is also an increase in benzos (benzodiazepines, a minor tranquilliser) and tablets."
Graham Ryall of the Rialto Community Drug Team, in the south inner city, said they had seen an increase in the number of urine tests positive for cocaine.
He said for the first time since they were set up in 1996 none of their methadone clients tested positive for heroin last week.
He said the price of heroin had jumped from €20 a bag to €50 a bag and that the price of street methadone had also jumped.
Tony Geoghegan of Merchants Quay Ireland said they had not seen any sharp rise in cocaine usage among clients, but have seen a jump in other substances.
David Lane of HSE drug and alcohol services in Cork said they were seeing "more benzos" among heroin users, rather than cocaine.
He said they were preparing a response for the resumption of heroin and the risk of overdoses among clients, whose tolerance levels would have fallen.
This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Tuesday, December 14, 2010
By Cormac O’Keeffe
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
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