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Needle use down but cocaine abuse up, research shows

09 Jul 2020 / addiction Print

Needle use down but abuse of cocaine is up, says HRB

Problem drug use has increased by 18%, according to new figures released by the Health Research Board (HRB).

A total of 67,875 cases were reported in the seven-year period between 2013-19.

The number of treated cases increased from 9,006 in 2013 to 10,664 in 2019.

Treated cases

The National Drug Treatment Reporting System has shown an overall increase of 1,658 or 18% in the number of treated cases recorded between 2013 and 2019.

Between 2018 and 2019 there was an increase of 3.8% or 390 cases in the number of cases presenting for treatment.

These figures highlight the levels of increased demand for drug treatment services nationwide.

Opioids (mainly heroin) continue to be the most commonly reported main problem drug at 39%, followed by cocaine and cannabis at 24% and 23.5% per cent respectively.

Opioid use has decreased from 51% of cases treated in 2013 to 39% of cases treated in 2019. The increase in cocaine use stands out. It has increased from 8% of cases in 2013 to 24% of cases in 2019.

The proportion of new problem drug use cases was 38.6% in 2013 and 37.3% in 2019.

In 2019, the majority of cases were treated in outpatient facilities (65.1%), as in previous years.

Heroin use

The proportion of heroin use cases treated decreased from 51.4% in 2013 to 38.8% in 2019.

Cocaine was the second most common drug reported in 2019, having ranked third since 2015.

The proportion of cocaine cases increased from 7.9% in 2013 to 24.0% 2019.

Cannabis was the third most common main drug reported in 2019.

The proportion of cases treated decreased from 28.7% in 2013 to 23.5% in 2019.

Cannabis was the most common main drug among new cases in 2019.

However, the proportion of new cases reporting cannabis as a main problem decreased from 47.0% in 2013 to 37.8% in 2019.

Benzodiazepines were the main problem drug for 10.1% of cases in 2019. Since 2013, the proportion of cases treated for benzodiazepines has been relatively stable.

Polydrug use

However, over the seven-year period, the majority of cases reported polydrug use (58.5%).

The proportion of cases with polydrug usedecreased from 62.9% in 2013 to 55.0% in 2019.

Alcohol (37.3%), cannabis (37.0%), benzodiazepines (35.6%), and cocaine (32.9%) were the most commonly reported additional drugs in 2019.

Risk Behaviour

The proportion of users who had ever injected decreased from 36.1% in 2013 to 23.8% in 2019.

The median age of cases increased from 29 in 2013 to 31 in 2019.

Seven in every ten cases reported over the period were men.

The proportion of cases recorded as homeless increased from 6.5% in 2013 to 11.0% in 2019.

The proportion of cases with an Irish traveller ethnicity was 2.6% in 2013 and 3.0% in 2019.

The proportion of cases recorded as unemployed decreased from 65.6% in 2013 to 54.9% in 2019.

The proportion of cases in paid employment increased from 7.8% in 2013 to 15.9% in 2019.

Outpatient facilities accounted for the majority of cases treated over the period (63.1%).

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