Fr Brian | 

Ireland has fourth highest rate of cocaine abuse in the world – so why do we turn a blind eye?

‘Even an amateur like me can spot drugs around pubs, cafes, street corners, sporting events and concerts...”

Stock image.

Bruce Springsteen performing live© ??F???>?

Fr Brian D'Arcy

It’s a mystery to me why there is not a major outcry against the illegal selling of cocaine in every town and village in Ireland – North and South.

Ireland has the fourth-highest rate of cocaine abuse in the world. Why does officialdom continue to turn a blind eye to the widespread availability of drugs in general and cocaine in particular?

Even an amateur like me can spot drugs around pubs, cafes, street corners, sporting events and concerts. I am aghast at the profile of many of the abusers. Younger people are obviously cocaine crazy, but there are many men and women on the wrong side of middle-age dicing with addiction and worse. There are abusers who clearly are from the professional classes - sports stars, lawyers, entertainers etc. - mostly well-heeled, well dressed and well-educated in all aspects of life except the dangers of drug abuse.

Those who work in bars point to the growing number of professional classes who regularly binge on cocaine in pubs. Many no longer mix cocaine with alcohol; the trend is to take cocaine at home, alone and without alcohol (known as dry snorting).

A young woman explained to me how it is no longer a shame to be caught with drugs. She writes that in her circle of friends, drugs are widely available. They stop at filling Stations and roadsides to exchange drugs and money. Workplaces are also convenient places to stock up on drugs.

I cannot understand why so-called recreational abusers of cocaine fail to see they are supporting vicious criminals when they buy illegal drugs to feed their habit. Abusers come from every stratum of society including medics, lawyers, musicians, elite athletes and financiers.

In their daily work, they condemn drug pushers and may even help to prosecute them. In their off-time they support them. Where’s the integrity, ethics or morality in that behaviour?

Cocaine abuse is easily spotted. The eyes tell the tale. Diluted and bloodshot eyes don’t just happen. Since cocaine is a stimulant, it can stop users from sleeping which is another cause of red-eye.

Cocaine is never sold as pure; it is mixed up with other substances – how can you possibly tell what damaging stuff is in there?

The young woman who spoke to me is kicking the habit. For her the warning signs were a constant cold and sporadic nose bleeds from snorting. She never felt hungry; eating regular healthy meals became impossible. A lack of nutrition made short work of her achievements. After the highs, she felt exhausted, tense and ill. The withdrawal symptoms were shattering.

When you consider that in many urban areas, one in five 16 to 24-year-olds are coke users, the cost to health services will be astronomical.

One of the most common effects I come across is mental health problems leading to anxiety and paranoia. Dodgy ‘coke’ increases suicidal idealisation among vulnerable users. Days are lost dreaming about the next fix and nights pass without proper sleep leading to nightmares and cravings. The experts tell me that switching between too much sleep and too little sleep is a good indication that one’s cocaine dependence has crossed the line.

The addict on a cocaine buzz talks arrogantly and too much because they feel on top of the world. Coming down is awful – depression, feeling edgy and anxious, soon erases the memory of the high. Watch out for agitation, mood swings and irritability.

After a week or two of constant use the temptation to chase the dream kicks in. That’s when to seek help – otherwise, the downward spiral will be hard to stop and soon the brain will need more and more cocaine just to feel normal.

Cocaine abuse has taken such a hold here in Ireland because we are a nation in denial. But isn’t that typical? Didn’t we do the same with alcohol, drunk driving and cigarettes? Those on the frontline know that this country is saturated with illicit drugs. Why can we not admit the obvious?

When you pay exorbitant amounts of money for a substance you cannot be sure what it is mixed with, and you stick it up your nose knowing it could kill you, you have to realise it is Russian roulette by another name.

I read recently in an English paper that cocaine use is God’s way of telling you, you have too much money - and it won’t be long until you have none!

There’s nothing glamorous about secretly snorting lines off dirty tops in smelly toilets. The truth is that every cocaine user usually becomes a dealer eventually. Why do we accept the blatant lie that cocaine abuse is normal? Wake up and look around you!

“There is not a part of this country where drugs are not available fifteen minutes from where you live,” the recovering young woman told me. “Though no one can go back and make a brand-new start, anyone can start from today and create a brand-new ending.”

  • Still a spring in his step

Bruce Springsteen performing live© ??F???>?

As I mentioned recently, Bruce Springsteen in his memoir wrote eloquently about how the experience of community helps us to appreciate the value of life lived each day with gratitude.

During his wonderful concerts at the RDS, he created many moods and one of the most memorable was when he reflected – as he frequently does – about his own life. In his seventies now, he has spent close to sixty years as a travelling musician.

For Springsteen, every concert with the E Street Band becomes a genuine communal liturgy in praise community and brings emotional healing by remembering the love good friends generate.

Before his stunning rendition of Last Man Standing, he reflected on how quickly life passes. He recalled his first rock and roll band which he joined at 15. He told us how he was at the bedside as friends like Danny Federici, Clarence ‘Big Man’ Clemons and especially George Theiss died.

Now, Bruce is the Last Man Standing from that first band. “It makes you realise how important it is to live every moment…The dead’s great and final gift to the living is an expanded vision…to live fully in every moment. We get together on {beautiful} nights like this to remember we are not alone.”

I suspect Covid highlighted for him, and for many of us, the utter futility of a rushed life. Loss makes us aware of our mortality so that we can appreciate what we still have.

The silence of 45,000 fans proved each person there had their own nostalgia for friends and family no longer with us.

Bruce was able to tap into every emotion and then led us, in non-stop thunderous applause, through Wrecking Ball, The Rising, Born in The USA, Born To Run, Dancing in The Dark and Glory Days to name but a few.

After three power-packed hours, he finished with the ever-poignant “I’ll See You In My Dreams”.

“I’ll see you in my dreams/We’ll meet and live and love again/…Up Around the river bend/ For death is not the end.”

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