Timmy Ryan’s weekly column for the Waterford News & Star
DRIVING up the country recently I was listening intently to a discussion on the radio that normally would not hold my attention. The topic was primarily cocaine use in Ireland. To say I was labouring under an illusion concerning drug taking in this country would be accurate. In my world, “doing a line” meant going out with a girl! Up ‘til now too, I suppose I would have believed that cocaine users in Ireland would be affluent members of our society. People who could ‘afford’ cocaine. Their used to be a saying in the States in the 80s and 90s that being able to afford cocaine was “God’s way of letting you know you were successful”.
According to the evidence it’s now accessible across the board in all walks of life in Ireland. It was sobering to hear a family law solicitor speak about her experiences dealing with cocaine use and how “not a day goes by” without it coming up in court. Sandra McAleer gave a chilling account of how one man, a civil servant, cleaned out his savings and spent €40,000 in seven weeks to feed his drug habit and pay off what he owed for fear of reprisal from a supplier. Sweet Jesus!
‘No temporary high could be worth the permanent devastation caused either directly or indirectly. It’s a personal choice. Make the right one’
The so called “recreational” weekend users of cocaine are ending up with far more problems than they bargained for. Violence in the home is far more common than I had imagined. According to Priscilla Granger of “Stop Domestic Violence in Ireland”, a chilling 95% of her cases involved cocaine use. Apparently, the Christmas period saw a spike in calls for help. What they see and deal with on a regular basis would break your heart.
Kids get the brunt of it many times, not only the vicious outbursts but the eventual break up of homes where one of the partners is forced to leave, usually the woman, with nothing but the clothes she wears and the child in tow. Not that drug addiction only affects men, women too are taking cocaine in greater quantities. It may begin with the euphoria of a high at a dinner party but in many situations, leads to utter devastation and heartbreak and deaths in some circumstances.
In August last year, 19-year-old Jack Downey died after taking drugs at a festival in Cork. His father doesn’t have any time for those who suggest he was unfortunate in that he happened across a ‘bad batch’. “It’s so easy for young fellas and young ones to fall into this trap and say, ‘sure look, I’ll get the buzz and be grand, drink a glass of water and be grand tomorrow morning,” said Johnny, his Dad. “Jack was well versed on the dangers. I would never have suspected it was going to be our Jack. It affects everybody. There’s no quality control in this, there’s no such thing as a bad batch, it’s all bad.”
According to the Road Safety Authority, 37 per cent of motorists caught drug-driving test positive for cocaine and eight per cent of road death victims between 2013 and 2016 had the drug in their system. Prof Colin O’Gara, a psychiatrist at St John Of God Hospital in Dublin claims, “The level of drug use nationally has now exceeded that seen during the Celtic Tiger days. It is by far the most common drug we deal with now,” he says. “The perception that cocaine is relatively safe is false. You have people who suffer a stroke or a heart attack with very little use.”
Michael Guerin, a counsellor at the addiction centre in Bruree, Limerick, says that the number of young teenagers seeking counselling for drug addiction has quadrupled in just two years and believes that cocaine use has now become as normalised as alcohol use for some kids. A colleague told me recently he believes there’s widespread use of coke in a well-known venue in Waterford. Popping out to the bathroom regularly may be totally unrelated to bladder control it seems. While another anecdotal story says that many kids’ budget for the Debs includes the cost of the drugs.
Cocaine highs can apparently be exhilarating. The user, according to Sandra McAleer, feels “cocky” and can feel like they are capable of taking on anything or anyone for that matter. A friend of mine also describes Cocaine users as having a feeling of being very powerful, righteous and invincible without the messiness or loss of coherence that you might get with alcohol or other drugs. You can see why such feelings and results are seductive. The problem is that it is a false feeling and while you may not lose coherence and appear stone cold sober and very much in control, sadly, in many abuse cases, some users report not remembering their actions at all. Extremely worrying!
Some people may say well it’s their way to relax, their “thing”, they’re doing no harm and they only have a “snort or two” at the weekend to unwind. What about those who are out drinking 3 or 4 days a week? Why is it any different? Just because alcohol is legal and drugs are not?
I won’t tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t do. However, the biggest elephant in the room where Cocaine is concerned is the fact that you are feeding criminality. You may be paying legally earned money for your supply but there is no way around the fact that you are part of this very evil chain. Your “harmless” recreational habit is linked to all the recent awfulness whether you admit it or not. I would also be most concerned with the supply chain quality control. Most cocaine that arrives into Ireland is cut with other substances to bulk it out. The purity is watered down. While most gangs do not set out to ‘kill’ their customers, that would be stupid, can you really trust these people not to put money and profit first if an opportunity presented itself? You see how these gangs send messages to each other with the body parts of youngsters. These people think very differently to the ordinary guy on the street. As a customer you are part of this chain and, to be blunt, there is blood on your hands too.
Have we become that empty and insecure that we need these artificial highs to make us feel good? Have we not seen enough public drug carnage from both the famous to the unfortunates that turn up on our news bulletins, to know that no good can come of it? There is a huge body of proven evidence and statistics that list the horrendous side effects and long term physical and mental damage. If you are dabbling please think about stopping and if you can’t do it yourself, seek help. Cocaine is a societal cancer that has already spread too far and carried too much far reaching awfulness. No temporary high could be worth the permanent devastation caused either directly or indirectly. It’s a personal choice. Make the right one.