Dr John Sheehan, who owns the Bridge surgery in Blackpool and is a Fianna Fáil councillor, said some patients have waited only until after a major health scare to confide in him about their drug use. He spoke of his hopes for addiction to be brought out of the shadows.
Dr Sheehan expressed joy at seeing regular patients returning to him after battling cocaine addiction and added that the initial effects of cocaine can make a person feel superhuman appearing to ‘help’ with everything from work presentations to social events.
However, he has seen the darker side of the drug’s impact including patients who have been hospitalised due to cocaine use. The dangerous health issues associated with the drug include heart attacks, chest pain, and strokes.
“People think it’s a party drug and they will be fine but sometimes there are life changing consequences,” Dr Sheehan warned.
A UN report revealed that more than one in 40 people in Ireland reported using the drug in the past year. This makes Irish people the joint-fourth highest consumers of cocaine in the world in line with the US and Austria.
Ireland is behind Australia, the Netherlands and Spain in terms of cocaine activity.
The figures did not come as a shock to Dr Sheehan.
“That number isn’t surprising. We’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of people presenting with addictions.
"People have lost their homes, money and relationships. This is before any of the health effects. They don’t think it will happen to them until they start spending. The difficulties that come with a downward spiral can happen very quickly.”
He described how many cocaine users feel they are invincible.
According to Dr Sheehan many will only present to their GP after their drug use has impacted other family members.
“Very often they will come with a partner of or family.”
He stressed that there is hope for people suffering with cocaine addictions.
“On the upside, I’ve had patients who managed to come off cocaine and get their life together and back on track. However, it’s not easy and that’s the reality. Dr Sheehan advised anyone suffering in silence to access help.
“People won’t be judged. With facilities like Arbour House people can refer themselves directly. The main message is to talk to someone because shame often prevents these conversations."
For more information about supports available for drug addiction issues visit www.hse.ie.