CRACK cocaine and the use of other "home" drugs has spiralled in Ireland during the pandemic, a new report has revealed.
The annual report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Addiction (EMCDDA) published on Wednesday, June 9, found that while there was a reduction in drug consumption during the first lockdown, drug dealers were “remarkably resilient” in responding to the “disruption caused by the pandemic".
One of the ways drug dealers adapted to the unprecedented circumstances was to increase their “reliance on smuggling via intermodal containers and commercial supply chains and less reliance on the use of human couriers.”
They also increased “their use of encrypted messaging services, social media applications, online sources and mail and home delivery services."
“This raises the concern that a possible long-term impact of the pandemic will be to further digitally enable drug markets," the report said.
Using a variety of methods, including testing the amount sewage systems for traces of a number of drugs, the report shows some worrying trends.
While the consumption of drugs such as MDMA “usually associated with recreational events” declined during the first lockdown, this was accompanied by a “greater interest” in narcotics associated with home use.
Findings of crack cocaine and benzodiazepines were particularly concerning, both having shot up during periods where people were stuck inside their homes.
“However, the easing of restrictions on movement and travel and a return of some social gatherings during the summer was associated with a rebound in the levels of use", the report said.
“Analysis of wastewater samples, while only available from some cities, suggest that levels of use of most drugs appear generally lower during the initial lockdowns, but then appear to bounce back once lockdown was lifted.”
Even before the pandemic, a record 213 tonnes of cocaine was seized in 2019, illustrating a trend in Ireland and across the EU of an expanding supply.
Cocaine purity has also been increasing over the past decade, as have the number of people entering treatment over the past five years.
Commenting on the findings, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson said: "The European Drug Report 2021 provides the latest evidence on this vital issue, which corrupts the fabric of our society, fuelling violence and risking the health and security of our citizens.
“I am particularly concerned by the highly pure and potent substances available on our streets and online and by the 46 new drugs detected in the EU in 2020 alone.
"With the new EU strategies on security and on drugs, our Member States will have robust tools to address this emergency through a balanced approach, tackling both supply and demand, supported by the EMCDDA."
The Director of the EMCDDA, Alexis Goosdeel, added: “We are witnessing a dynamic and adaptive drug market, resilient to COVID-19 restrictions.
"We are also seeing patterns of drug use that are increasingly complex, as consumers are exposed to a wider range of highly potent natural and synthetic substances."