In Ireland the most recent general population survey was completed in 2014-15. This shows that 2.9 per cent of 15–34-year olds used cocaine in the last year which had not changed since the 2010/11 survey. The HRB are currently carrying out the 2018/19 General Population Survey on drug use and we expect results by the end of 2019.
Our national drug strategy ‘Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery’ recognises the need to strengthen early harm reduction responses to current and emerging trends and patterns of drug use. There is limited evidence that mass media campaigns are effective at reducing the use of drugs and alcohol. Therefore, targeted awareness campaigns are favoured.
In July 2018, I launched a national cocaine harm reduction campaign. This was a collaboration between the HSE and the Ana Liffey Drugs Project. The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness of the dangers of taking cocaine (both powder and crack). The campaign communicates the risks and dangers of cocaine use to dependent users and at-risk groups, as well as to those who engage in ‘recreational use’. It is important to increase awareness of the risks associated with drugs like crack cocaine and highlight how these risks are hugely increased when combined with alcohol.
Recently, the HSE, in partnership with the Union of Students in Ireland, launched a new harm-reduction information campaign, called #SaferStudentNights. The HSE in conjunction with the Department of Education are also in the final stages of developing an educational prevention programme for schools in relation to drugs and alcohol both for the Junior Cycle and the Senior cycle (‘Know the Score’).
I am committed to reducing drug-related harm in our society, especially drug-related deaths. I recently announced that €1 million in additional funding will be provided to support the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy. This funding will support regional initiatives on emerging trends and patterns of drug use, including cocaine and crack cocaine.