The crack-cocaine problem is growing in parts of the capital. The number of people being treated for crack cocaine use increased by 44pc between 2018 and last year, the Health Research Board’s annual report said.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, a recovering crack cocaine addict has highlighted the stark realities of the drug, including that children as young as 10 are selling it in parts of Dublin while women regularly sell their bodies to dealers to pay for it.
The single mother from Tallaght in south Dublin, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained how the crack cocaine problem is “getting out of control”.
Tim Murphy, manager of Tallaght Addiction Support Project (TASP) in Fettercairn community centre, agreed, saying that crack cocaine was a worsening problem.
“Crack has been here a while but unquestionably the situation has gotten far worse in the past year or so, since the pandemic,” he said.
“Crack cocaine is often sold alongside heroin. Crack has really caught on with opiate users, which puts people at a lot of risk. Crack lends itself to users having chaotic lifestyles in particular.”
The mother, a former crack addict who was also previously hooked on heroin, said very young children in Tallaght and other parts of Dublin are involved in selling the drug.
“There’s kids as young as 10 selling it. A lot of the time their parents are addicts. Because they are so young, they can’t be touched [prosecuted by gardaí].”
Crack cocaine is a crystalised version of powder cocaine and its “rocks” are smoked through a pipe. It is far cheaper that powder cocaine, which is generally sold in bags for €100.
“You buy a bag of crack for €20. That has four rocks it in. You could smoke that in half an hour and be back out looking for more. It is much cheaper than powder but it’s so much more addictive.
“The difference between powder and crack is like the difference between non-alcoholic beer and real beer. I think crack is worse than heroin. When you need more, you will do anything to get it.”
The woman said she had seen addicts agreeing to engage in sexual services in order to get the drug for free. People degrade themselves on crack in ways they never would on heroin or other drugs. Some of the dealers offer free rocks to women who will have sex with them. And some of the women agree to that,” she said.
The Dublin mother said although crack is far cheaper than powder cocaine it can easily become a far more expensive addiction.
“It’s cheaper at first. And dealers give free samples sometimes to get people hooked,” the woman said.
“I’ve seen people spend €20,000 to €30,000 in a couple of months on crack and lose their house and everything. It is being sold everywhere now, in all drug circles.
“A lot of people take heroin to come down off crack. It’s just everywhere, all over Dublin, and it’s the worst drug out there because it’s just so addictive.”
Mr Murphy, of TASP, said addiction support centres nationwide needed an urgent injection of Government funding to tackle the emerging crack problem in Ireland.
“I’m very concerned with the crack problem in this area and other parts of the country. We all need more resources to effectively challenge what is going on is some communities.
“Families are being saddled with massive drug debts and being threatened by dealers. That’s a story we hear all the time. When people get sucked into crack cocaine use it takes over their life very quickly.”
Dr Garrett McGovern, who works in private practice and with the HSE’s addiction services team providing help for those with drug addictions, agreed that crack has become a major problem.
He works in marginalised areas in west Tallaght and Crumlin.
“Communities are being decimated out there with crack,” he said. “Addicts can spend a huge amount of money on it. It’s highly addictive and destructive.”
Security sources said as cocaine continues to “flood” the Irish market, crack is becoming more prevalent in disadvantaged areas.
“Crack is much more addictive. It’s more dangerous. It’s having a knock-on effect on other criminality as well as addicts are going out and committing crimes in other parts of Dublin to feed their habit,” a source said.