Pubdate: Sun, 09 Dec 2007
Source: Observer, The (UK)
Copyright: 2007 The Observer
Author: Henry McDonald


The death of Katy French, the model and socialite who had publicly 
battled cocaine addiction, highlights the widespread consumption of 
the drug in post-Celtic tiger Ireland, according to doctors and 
police. It is popular not only with rich celebrities but also the 
affluent middle class, they say, and it's never been cheaper.

A controversial new book on the subject, High Society, includes 
interviews with a wide range of Irish professionals, including an 
alleged interview with an Irish government minister, all of whom 
confess to regular cocaine abuse.

One of Ireland's most prominent consultants, Dr Chris Luke, from Cork 
University Hospital, this weekend described Ireland as a society 
entering a 10-year cocaine epidemic. Dr Luke predicted there would be 
'dozens and dozens' of further deaths such as Katy's over the next decade.

'There is a spiralling interest in drug-taking among children and 
teenagers, which also perfectly fits the same curve of the 
distribution of leaflets and drug talks. I do worry that all you are 
doing is exposing them to a menu that they might dabble in,' he said.

Dr Luke's gloomy prognosis was shared this weekend by the mother of 
Phil Lynott, who was the frontman of Seventies rock group Thin Lizzy.

Philomena Lynott, who will mark the 21st anniversary this January of 
her son's death from a cocktail of alcohol and drugs, condemned the 
widespread use of drugs such as cocaine in Ireland.

'Children are dying from drugs and dying because of them. Car 
crashes, suicide, everything. When I go to concerts in memory of 
Philip, I tell them, thank you for loving him and his music, but 
don't love his lifestyle,' she said.

Stephen Rowen, clinical director of the Dublin-based Rutland Centre, 
said: 'Cocaine is quite available, it's in most pubs and virtually 
every city, town and village in Ireland. We have no way of knowing 
before people use it how it will affect them - if they could have a 
stroke, heart attack, some severe medical reaction, or get addicted, 
which is a very expensive and horrific way to live.'

Katy, 24, died in hospital after collapsing and falling into a coma 
at a friend's house in Ashbourne, Co Meath, last weekend. Preliminary 
tests indicate she had cocaine in her bloodstream. The star of the 
Celebrities Go Wild series had been drinking champagne at her 
friend's home but, contrary to earlier reports, there was no party 
taking place.

A gramme of cocaine in Dublin costs around a,-40 (AUKP29), making the 
Republic one of the cheapest places to buy the drug in the industrial 
world. Its widespread availability is due, in part, to geography: the 
Irish coastline provides an ideal 'dumping point' for drug cartels 
and gangsters smuggling cocaine by sea from South America via the 
West African coast to Europe.

Most cocaine in the city is cut up with other substances, ranging 
from washing powder to rat poison. A lot of dealers in the capital 
are lacing their cocaine with crushed ecstasy to ensure consumers 
still get some kind of 'high' for their a,-40.

The bitter irony of the Katy French tragedy, according to senior 
Garda sources, is that the last cocaine she snorted before collapsing 
and suffering massive brain damage was pure, supplied by dealers who 
feed the habits of Dublin's hedonistic socialites and who mix in the 
same glittering circles.
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