The South East has the highest prevalence of cocaine powder and crack use in the Republic outside the Dublin area, newly released figures suggest.

Data contained in a report from the National Advisory Committee on Drugs, released on Tuesday, has shown that cocaine use amongst adults (aged 15-64 years) in the region almost doubled over the past ten years. Since the early 1990s, the number of new cases seeking treatment for cocaine problems has increased most years and now represents a larger share of the total treatment seeking population than ever before.

The report is based on information gathered by Regional Drugs Taskforces across the country and figures recorded by the South East division demonstrate a marked increase in the number of men in the locality who have used cocaine/ crack in their lifetime. Outside Dublin, the highest proportion of male cocaine users was noted in the south east, as was the second highest number of older adults (aged 35-64) who had used the drug. The report comes a year after two cocaine-related deaths of young men in Waterford.

The research found that nearly half of cocaine users get the drug from family and friends. Nationally, prevalence rates among young adults were three times those of older adults respectively for cocaine powder and/or crack combined. The average age respondents reported that they had first used cocaine powder was 22 years (22 for males and 21 for females). All current cocaine powder users reported ‘snorting’ the drug and the period of time between first using cocaine and becoming regular users (lag) was just one year across gender and age groups.

Commenting on the findings, Dr. Des Corrigan, Chairperson of the NACD, said the report reinforced the complexity of drug taking behaviour and reflected the spread of cocaine across the country. “The results also revealed an increase in the frequency of using cocaine powder, with one-in-four current cocaine powder users using the drug at least once a week and the majority of current cocaine powder users taking the drug less than once a week.

Launching the report, the Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy John Curran said the availability of a regional breakdown of data would help target interventions more effectively.

Cocaine use is linked to heart conditions, strokes and various other physical complaints that vary depending on the route of administration of the drug. Frequent use of cocaine can also have a powerful effect on the user’s mental health, through depression, anxiety and paranoia.