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IRELAND READY TO CRACK UP; Health experts warn of explosion in killer drug.

Byline: By NIALL MOONAN

IRELAND is facing a major crack cocaine problem, a drug treatment expert has warned.

And an explosion in users will see a surge in sexual violence and attacks.

Crack - produced when cocaine is mixed with bread soda and other chemicals - is already on the rise, according to Marie Byrne, founder of the Dublin-based Aisling Group.

She said: "Cocaine is available all over the country and crack is coming in on the back of it.

"It is the next biggest threat in addition to all the other drugs.

"Crack cocaine is like heroin and leads almost immediately to addiction. It is already in some communities."

Gardai have already seized more than EUR1million worth of cocaine so far this year, excluding a seizure of coke and cannabis worth EUR1.5million.

Ms Byrne said a new purpose-built treatment centre is needed to deal with the upsurge in drug use.

Cocaine causes an increase in sexual appetite and if this is not satisfied it can cause sexual violence and aggression.

Ms Byrne added: "We already have 17 year olds on cocaine and 16 year olds presenting psychotic episodes because of cannabis resin and these drugs are not as immediately addictive as crack.

"That is why we have to build this centre now."

She appealed to any landowner or developer in Navan, Co Meath, who can donate a 10-acre site, to contact the Aisling Group.

A spokesman for the Garda's National Drugs Unit said yesterday there had been "some small seizures of crack but no significant increase" in the past three years.

And Grainne Kenny of Dublin-based Europe Against Drugs said history has shown that occasionally crack cocaine showed up but then disappeared.

She added: "The Irish drug user just doesn't seem to have the taste for crack cocaine."

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SMOKE: Actress Heather Locklear plays a crack addict in Double Tap
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 17, 2005
Words:311
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