THE Health Service Executive has issued a warning about crack cocaine, as the drug becomes more popular.
At a recent court hearing in Cork, evidence was presented that an accused man had spent large amounts of money on crack cocaine over a 12-hour period.
Last September, The Echo also revealed that users of the lethal drug are turning to treatment centres in Cork for help in tackling addiction to it.
Harm reduction information from the HSE on the drug states: "Crack is an addictive, stimulant drug which can make people feel more alert, energetic and confident.
"In addition to the effects there are significant health risks.
"The effects of crack wear off very quickly, prompting the person to repeat the dose in a binge type pattern which increases the risks to health.
"Crack has a more intense and immediate effect because it is delivered to the brain much faster than cocaine powder with effects much stronger."
The HSE adds: "Problems relating to acute cocaine intoxication are relatively common. Cocaine can cause a range of acute health-related problems and even sudden death.
"Crack can create a significant number of physical and mental health problems for people.
"Use is highly risky for anybody with high blood pressure or a heart condition.
"Even perfectly healthy, young people can have a fit or heart attack after consuming too much cocaine."
It can also lead to increased anxiety, breathing problems and lung damage, weight loss and debt, according to the HSE.
There is a danger of overdosing, particularly if mixed with substances such as heroin.
Crack cocaine was rampant across the US in the 1980s, devastating communities and spiking crime in the affected areas.
It is in the same family as cocaine but is more potent and more addictive. It has other street names, including rock, stone or free-base.
It can be smoked or injected.
The 2018 annual report from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction highlighted that there have been increases in the number of clients presenting for treatment for crack cocaine addiction in Ireland and five other European countries, including the UK, since 2014.