- 08 Feb 23
“The gardaí are very aware of the drug problem and they realise there is an underlying health issue behind it. Their remit is to protect life and they realise that drug use requires a health intervention.”
As part of the implementation of a “holistic approach” to tackling drug use in Limerick, gardaí are to make health referrals to those with addiction in an effort to stem the surge of crack cocaine use in the city.
The Law Engagement and Assisted Recovery project (LEAR), which is due to launch in April, will feature a dedicated crack cocaine support service geared towards tackling the increase in those presenting to drug charity Ana Liffey.
Derek Smart, the Chief Superintendent of the Limerick Garda Division stated that his force were committed to supporting those who were vulnerable after being snared in the trap of drug use.
“Working in partnership with Ana Liffey, we will focus on the issue in Limerick City centre,” Smart said in a statement. “With the person’s consent, my team on the ground will make referrals to Ana Liffey’s Lear team for people who fit the criteria as needing case management supports."
Despite these new implementations, Gardaí are still dedicated to the prosecution of drug lords involved in the importation and sale of drugs.
CEO of the Ana Liffey Drug Project, which will roll out LEAR, Tony Duffin said “The Gardaí are very aware of the drug problem and they realise there is an underlying health issue behind it.”
“Their remit is to protect life and they realise that drug use requires a health intervention. It’s part of a more holistic approach; drug supply requires a criminal justice intervention.”
Mr Duffin continued, acknowledging that “Limerick is a relatively small city with a big drug problem,” reiterating the intent to target areas of deprivation and known drug use, where a lot of our client base come from.”
[New to the library] Ana Liffey Drug Project - Doing more: the health and social impacts of crack cocaine use in Limerick City https://t.co/TOPbSCQjp9 pic.twitter.com/2MCYPtyOKe
— Drugs Library (@HRBdrugslibrary) February 8, 2023
An initial €200,000 has been sanctioned for three staff and a vehicle to engage with the “most vulnerable crack cocaine users” in Limerick in 2023 with the hope to extend the initiative.
The Ana Liffey project has already provided approximately 9,000 sterile crack pipes in Limerick, Clare, and north Tipperary in the years 2020 to 2022 in an attempt to reduce transmission of viruses and infections among crack users.
Speaking on the issue of crack cocaine, Mr Duffin outlined how the problem was being exacerbated by the price of the drug.
“The price of a rock of crack in Limerick can be as low as €10. It used to be €50. These are the indicators of the problem,” he said.
The HSE has also commented on the issue, stating that the need for a “dedicated crack cocaine response in Limerick” had also been identified in a recent study by University of Limerick (UL) researchers.
The study, Doing More: The health and social impacts of crack cocaine in Limerick City concluded that availability of the drug could be traced to “every part of the city.”
The study also found that Ireland was one of the countries with the “highest incidence of cocaine use,” citing statistics by the Health Research Board that showed “400 deaths caused by cocaine users were recorded between 2008-2017”.
UL’s research also showed that service providers in Limerick were experiencing “high levels of burnout and need for supports due to high demand for services because of increased crack cocaine use during the Covid-19 pandemic.” Despite levels being low in the mid-2000s for usage by 15-40 year olds, the study showed that there has since been an increase in not only usage of the drug but of power.
Although most users are male and adolescents, a rise in the use among women has been noted.
The study by UL highlighted cocaine as “a known cause of cerebrovascular diseases, which is the cause of 40.3% of visits to the emergency room,” with the drug responsible for “drug dealing, prostitution, financial debt, intimidation of [the drug user] and their families, relationship and family breakdowns, anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorder, and suicide.”
If you or anyone you know has been affected by the issues discussed in this article, a list of resources and support service can be found here.