Cocaine Use Survey Shows Increase

One in three people in parts of Northern Ireland have used cocaine, a new report reveals. With men especially lured to the Class A drug, the vast majority are combining it with drinking binges. The startling findings depict cocaine as easier to buy and more readily taken by greater numbers, according to a charity battling to halt its spread.

Breakthru, a Dungannon-based drugs and alcohol awareness and intervention organisation, issued the warning after an investigation across Mid Ulster and Co Down.

Manager Paul Edwards said: “This research should act as a catalyst to address the growing concern about the issue of cocaine. It illustrates the increased availability and use of the drug in the areas that we have researched.”

The probe was spread across Dungannon, Portadown, Lurgan, Banbridge and Newry in a bid to discover public drug habits.

Breakthru`s report, Where`s Charlie? An investigation into the prevalence of cocaine use across the Southern area, found:

  • 61% of people who took part in the questionnaire had been offered cocaine 38% of respondents admitted to having used cocaine at some stage
  • Out of those 71.2% were male and 28.8% were female
  • Among those who had taken the drug, the majority admitted using it for the first time to have fun or experiment
  • Only 2% said they used it by itself More than 84% of cocaine users also took alcohol at the same time

The survey was carried out amid a major rise in Class A drug seizures throughout Northern Ireland. Police confirmed a near 59% surge in the number of incidents from 2005/06 to 2006/07. And the amount of cocaine powder recovered has gone up progressively over the last three years, from 21.3kg in 2004/05 to 36.1kg in 2006/07.

Breakthru`s study was commissioned by the Southern Health and Social Services Board through its drugs and alcohol co-ordination team. Mr Edwards accepted it provided just a snapshot, and showed the need for long-term research to accurately measure the situation at both local and regional level.

“Services must be developed and tailored towards those cocaine users who wish to access help,” he added. “With almost two-thirds of respondents to our questionnaire feeling that cocaine use has now become more socially acceptable, it is vital that the people are properly educated and made aware of the risks and harms associated with cocaine.”

After studying the figures, the PSNI insisted officers in the district covering Newry & Mourne, Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon were committed to tackling the growing issue of cocaine.

Prevalence and affordability were factors in its rise, a spokeswoman said. She added: “However, the hard work in seizing narcotics and putting the dealers behind bars has been reflected in recent stats where drug arrests in the Craigavon area have risen by 63.9% (from 05/06 to 06/07). “The police urge the public to report any suspicious activity to the local police station or Crimestoppers to help take illegal drugs off the streets.”