The use of cocaine throughout Galway city and county is at epidemic levels according to a Galway clinical specialist in addiction.
In a presentation to the Galway County Joint Policing Committee (JPC ), Joe Treacy, who has been working in addiction services in Ireland, the UK, and Australia for nearly 30 years, told members at County Hall on Monday consumption of the drug is at unprecedented levels with samples revealing a purity of 94 per cent.
Mr Treacy said; “[Cocaine] is the biggest scourge to hit Galway. It is not snowing in Galway, there is a blizzard. The purity of the cocaine we are seeing here is very high, it’s 93 or 94 per cent.
“[The drug problem] is the worst I have seen in Galway and shows no signs of abating. From a health perspective we are not engaging with it never mind keeping up with it.
“There will be a lost generation here if we can’t and don’t engage with this. Nobody is immune. At every party, every wedding [in Ireland], there is a procurement person who is getting and providing the drugs. The proliferation of drugs and availability has never been as easy.”
When questioned by JPC members what course of action he would advise in tackling the problem Mr Treacy said a residential treatment centre was desperately needed for Galway and warned against the belief the popularity of cocaine among members of the public would eventually dip as was the case with ecstasy.
He said; “[We have tried drugs] education in schools but the traction has been minimal. We are redundant if we don’t engage in treatment setting. It is shocking a city of the size of Galway does not have a screening or treatment centre.
“We don’t have a residential treatment setting for alcohol not alone drugs. We have lost six years [in trying to treat addiction in Galway]. The lack of investment is going to hurt us.
“Whereas ecstasy blew itself out, [I believe] cocaine is here to stay. It is part of the culture. [Some of the cocaine] is purer than what Pablo Escobar came up with. This is not rubbish, it is quality stuff.”
‘Attitude towards cocaine is staggering’
Mr Treacy’s comments come as Superintendent Damien Ó Flannacháin informed members of the JPC that gardai in the county had seized drugs with an estimated street value of €1.43 million in 2019.
A breakdown of the statistics showed an estimated €486,670 worth of cocaine was seized in 2019, as well as €6,955 worth of ecstasy, €902,835 worth of cannabis, €120 worth of heroin, as well as other drugs totalling €33,748.
The report also noted there were 39 arrests for the sale or supply of drugs in the county for 2019, with 151 arrests for simple possession.
Commenting on the statistics, Fine Gael councillor Andrew Reddington said the stats around cocaine were rather worrying, with Fianna Fáil councillor Mary Hoade describing the drug problem as “serious” throughout the county.
Councillors James Charity and PJ Murphy queried why the seizure of heroin was so low in comparison to other drugs.
In response to the members’ concerns, Superintendent Ó Flannacháin told the JPC it was difficult to qualify why there was less heroin seized.
Supt Ó Flannacháin said; “[The statistic] for heroin, it is low. Heroin is regarded the worst of [all drugs]. There is a lot of work around heroin by the HSE [but the seizure] is low in relation to other drugs. What I can tell you is with heroin, crime rises.”
The superintendent also highlighted the attitude the general public held towards cocaine. He said; “The attitude towards cocaine is staggering. There is a perception out there that cocaine is not a dirty drug. Heroin is seen as bad. People aren’t as afraid of [cocaine] as they should be.”