Cocaine now ‘normalised’ and ‘socially acceptable’ says Cuan Mhuire Addiction Counsellor

Cuan Mhuire Coolarne, an addiction treatment centre outside of Galway City, has seen a 35% increase in patients presenting who have admitted to cocaine usage since the pandemic.

Patients tend to develop cocaine addictions alongside existing alcohol dependencies and the age of cases seeking treatment is getting younger.

Anne Boland, Cuan Mhuire’s Clinical Supervisor said: “In the last 18 months to two years now we have seen a 35% increase in the number of people presenting with cocaine usage.”

“There’s 35% of our admissions at this point in this house who would have indulged or engaged in some sort of cocaine,” she added.

Traditionally Cuan Mhuire would have dealt mostly with alcoholic patients. However, now people are describing alcohol addictions with secondary dependencies to cocaine. Ms Boland’s observations are reflected in data published this year by the Health Research Board.

The government body’s statistics on patients in treatment points out that cocaine was the second most common drug additionally used alongside alcohol in 2021. In 2015 around 32% of cases reported using cocaine with alcohol however, by 2021 that jumped to almost 54%; becoming the substance with the largest increase in use with alcohol over the six year period.

“They start taking it as part of their social life when they go out to the pubs and such but a lot of the time by the time people get to here they’re doing a lot of stuff in secret,” commented Ms Boland.

She continued to say: “It’s normalised and it’s very socially acceptable. And it’s not just people who are addicted. We see people in addiction here but we see a huge number of people out there who are not addicted but who take it regularly as part of their social life.”

The Clinical Supervisor noted that although the increase in cocaine use cannot be attributed solely to one particular demographic, the addiction centre has witnessed more 18 year olds seeking assistance.

“We would see in the last few years that there is an increase in the number of 18 year olds looking for help. Whereas before we had people who were 18 but not as many. Now we have a good few,” Ms Boland explained.

Accessibility to the drug is one of the main factors that Ms Boland believes is driving the increase, and that the previous connotation of cocaine being a drug predominantly seen amongst white collar professionals can be thrown out the window.

She said: “In the last few years cocaine has become cheaper. It’s become more affordable again whereas for a while it wasn’t and I think that has opened the whole thing up for people to be taking more of it. Before it was kind of the more well-to-do people, business people and professionals who engaged in that kind of stuff.”

Making people understand from a young age the dangers of the drug are important according to Ms Boland and she believes the education system is “lacking”. She advised that education surrounding the drug must begin early on in secondary school.

She commented: “I think most secondary schools start that bit of education in TY but that’s too late. I think they need to be hitting first year. To start educating them about drugs before they start making those choices.”

Looking to the future, Ms Boland believes that if the current trend continues Cuan Mhuire Coolarne can expect more and more people to present with cocaine related problems.

Cuan Mhuire Coolarne will be hosting a Christmas Fair on Sunday 20 November between 2 and 6PM selling gifts and crafts made by those residing at the addiction centre with all proceeds going towards its running.

For support related to drug addiction click here.

For help with alcohol abuse click here.

Read more from Galway Pulse here.

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