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Irish among biggest cocaine users in world – with one in 40 reporting use in past year

Ireland consumes the drug at the same rate as the US and Austria in joint fourth-highest place globally

Addicts are often given drugs for free but then forced into violence or intimidation to repay debts. Stock image© Getty Images


Irish people are among the biggest users of cocaine in the world, according to a new report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC).

Ireland trailed only Spain, the Netherlands and Australia for cocaine use and consumed the drug at the same rate as the US and Austria in joint fourth-highest place globally.

The 2023 report found that 2.4pc, just shy of one in 40 people in Ireland, reported using cocaine in the previous year. The latest data available for most countries related to 2019 or 2020.

Australia has far and away the highest rate of cocaine usage globally, with 4.2pc of people using cocaine in the past year.

The UNDOC said that in Ireland, where “cocaine use is among the highest in Europe”, violence and intimidation are perceived to be associated with the dealing of cocaine at community level.

The report also stated that addicts are often given drugs for free but are then tasked with carrying out violence or intimidation to pay off their debts.

“As drug users quickly accumulate debts, they are often victimised as a means to force them to repay the debt. Research from Dublin’s inner city drug markets points out that drug users from vulnerable communities often acquire cocaine, which is beyond their financial means without having to pay for it during the transaction.

“As a result, they accrue debts which may lead to them becoming victims or perpetrators of intimidation and violence.”

A potential new trend identified by a recent study is the growing participation of children “as young as 10-14-years-old” in intimidation practices such as targeting homes or cars of rival gangs or those who owe dealers money.

“Although some members of disadvantaged communities, where drug use is concentrated, perceive a greater incidence of drug-related violence and intimidation than before, there is no systematic data to indicate an increase in violence over time,” the report said.

According to gardaí, killings resulting from feuds between the Hutch and Kinahan criminal groups over drug distribution markets became a serious problem in Dublin in the last decade.

The UN agency also believes that due to the expansion of cocaine use in Ireland, international crime groups may seek to gain more of a foothold here . There is already evidence that Albanian gangs are establishing a presence in the country’s drug trade.

“While the cocaine market is still largely controlled by Irish groups, Albanian organised crime has started establishing its presence in the country, although there is no evidence yet of their encroachment on the activities of established groups,” it said.

“However, analysts warn that expanding cocaine use across diverse user groups in Ireland and the UK, as well as Ireland’s potential role as a transit country for the UK cocaine markets, are likely to further attract organised crime groups, which may lead to violent clashes in the future.”

While Covid-19 had an effect on the cocaine trade, it has returned with a bang, law enforcement agencies said.

It has also brought with it an increased usage of crack cocaine in Ireland.

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