While sales of the drug plummeted in the recession, there is a hard core of users, writes Una Mullally.
Those people who were surprised that cocaine was a factor in Gerry Ryan's death were perhaps the same ones who were shocked to learn that it played a role in model Katy French's demise, although, when you think about it, it is remarkable that Ireland's two sudden celebrity deaths over the past few years can be attributed to cocaine use.
But while French was a Celtic Tiger cub playing with a new toy, Ryan was a veteran. Starting off in broadcast media in the 1980s, he was part of a select generation who indulged heavily in a drug that was largely unavailable to the masses. And though his use of the drug lessened over the years, it was to cocaine he returned as a crutch when things were getting tough.
It's easy to rationalise drug use once it becomes casual. Unlike other cities, Dublin's drug culture doesn't rely on anonymous deals down back alleys. The only drug that is dealt openly in the street is heroin; everything else is more subtle and operates on a level of friends buying from friends who get stuff from another friend or a low-level dealer.
As a seasoned user, Ryan would have had a very trusted source for his cocaine supply, perhaps a close friend who hooked him up with high quality coke and who, if not a dealer himself, did the same for others of Ryan's ilk.
At Ryan's level, there are often dealers or 'friends' who deal to specific people – the music industry guy, the model's supplier, the Gerry Ryan guy. With cocaine, once you're in, you're in and there's as little problem in getting it as there is popping to the shop for a pint of milk.
Like the consumption of most luxuries, recreational cocaine use has fallen off a cliff in the past two years.
Put simply, most people who took cocaine recreationally are now broke, and can't afford to dole out the €65-plus a gramme costs, never mind hitting the weekend with an 8ball bought between friends (an 8ball is an eighth of an ounce, about 3.5g).
Those who still indulge are either addicts, long-term users, drug dealers themselves, recreational users who can somehow still afford it, opportunistic users who come across a line on a night out, and 'special occasion' consumers who might order some for a birthday, wedding or New Year's Eve.
But there is still a cabal of older users for whom cocaine remains a part of a night out – middle-aged guys who just never learned to say no for the best part of three decades.
Apart from being affected by economic hardship, cocaine also took a massive hit during the recently-ended boom in legal highs.
Recreational cocaine users are not like normal drug users. They are more discerning. They might not take ecstasy or even smoke cannabis, but many did migrate to the easily accessible and legal – or at least not illegal – high-street highs, primarily mephadrone in its many guises.
Coke has also become unfashionable for a variety of reasons.
The democratisation of cocaine use, where it went from being a drug for the cool and glamourous to the choice pick-me-up of everyone, doesn't make it a product for exclusive tastes anymore.
It is seen by some as conspicuously vulgar, a hangover from the boom. For many it has lost its coolness.
Look around pubs and clubs in Ireland at the moment and everyone is just getting drunk again. Dublin's so-called VIP nightclubs are now gathering dust on their toilet cisterns, instead of white powder.
Among those in their 20s and 30s, pills (ecstasy) are very much back in fashion and currently cost around €7 a pop, a 10th of the price of a gram of coke and a more escapist high for the times we're living in.
MDMA in crystal powder form is also hugely popular, if a little harder to come by.
For the cocaine market, people either smart enough or broke enough have already seen the end of the line.
December 12, 2010
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