“Health referrals” as part of new Garda strategy to tackle widespread crack cocaine use

Gardaí will conduct “health referrals” for drug addicts as part of a new approach to monitoring a rise in crack cocaine use.

The Law Engagement & Assisted Recovery (Lear) project will start in Limerick next April and will include a dedicated crack cocaine support service to cope with an increase in people presenting themselves to drug charity Ana Liffey.

The Department of Health has initially approved €200,000 for three staff members and a vehicle to engage in 2023 with Limerick’s “most vulnerable crack cocaine users” in hopes of expanding the initiative.

Limerick Garda Division Chief Superintendent Derek Smart said Gardaí are committed to “supporting vulnerable people” caught in the trap of drug use.

Gardaí will continue to crack down on criminals involved in importing and selling drugs by prosecuting them in court.

“The Gardaí are very aware of the drug problem and recognize that there is a health problem behind it, their job is to protect life and they recognize that drug use requires a health intervention, it is part of a more holistic approach; Drug supply requires criminal justice intervention,” said Tony Duffin, executive director of the Ana Liffey Drug Project.

Mr Duffin added: “Limerick is a relatively small city with a major drug problem and we will target areas of deprivation and known drug use, which is where many of our clients come from.”

Ana Liffey provided around 9,000 sterile crack pipes across the Limerick, Clare and North Tipperary area between 2020 and last year to try to prevent the transmission of viruses and infections between users.

Mr Duffin said the price of crack cocaine had fallen across the country “but especially in Limerick”.

“The price of a Rock of Crack in Limerick can be as high as €10, it used to be €50 – these are indicators of the problem,” he said.

The HSE said the need for a “dedicated crack cocaine response in Limerick” was also identified in a recent study by researchers at the University of Limerick (UL).

The UL study – ‘Doing more: The health and social impact of crack cocaine in Limerick City’ – concluded that crack cocaine was ‘available in every part of the city’.

It found Ireland to be “among the countries with the highest incidence of cocaine use” and cited statistics published by the Health Research Board that “there were 400 deaths from cocaine users between 2008 and 2017”.

The study also found that service providers in Limerick experienced “high levels of burnout and support needs due to high demand for services due to increased crack cocaine use during the Covid-19 pandemic”.

It found that although in the mid-2000s “a small percentage of 15- to 64-year-olds reported using crack cocaine,” “both power and crack cocaine use have increased.”

The majority of users are men and young people, but “an increase in cracks among women can be observed”.

Polydrug use is also a major problem among crack users, who also use “benzodiazepines” and “smoke heroin to come down” from cocaine highs.

Crack cocaine causes “drug trafficking, prostitution, financial debt, intimidation”. [the drug user] and their families, relationship and family breakdowns, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide.

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/health/health-referrals-to-form-part-of-new-garda-strategy-to-confront-widespread-crack-cocaine-use-42332462.html “Health referrals” as part of new Garda strategy to tackle widespread crack cocaine use

Fry Electronics Team

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