Source: The Irish Times (Ireland)
Copyright: 1998 The Irish Times
Pubdate: 4 Dec 1998
Fax: ++ 353 1 671 9407
Mail: Letters to Editor, The Irish Times, 11-15 D'Olier St, Dublin 2, Ireland 
Author: Catherine Cleary


Dublin is experiencing the first heroin shortage in more than two years.
The price of a deal of heroin has doubled in some areas in the last two
weeks. In Ballymun, where some of the cheapest heroin was being sold at
discount prices, the cost has doubled.

Dealers who were selling two bags for IEP25 or four for IEP50 last month
are now charging IEP25 for a single bag, or deal. The standard price of
IEP20 charged elsewhere in the city, including St Michael's Estate in
Inchicore, has increased to IEP35 a bag.

Five weeks ago gardai from the Garda National Drugs Unit seized more than
20 kilos of heroin in two cars travelling separately from Britain. Four
people have been charged with drug-trafficking. In the same week a man
carrying four kilos of heroin in a rucksack was arrested on Westmoreland
Street in the city centre.

However, there was no immediate heroin shortage in the city following the

Presenting prizes at an antidrugs competition last month, Garda
Commissioner Pat Byrne said it was remarkable that the price of heroin
remained stable. "When you have seizures and the price remains level it
would cause you to wonder how much drugs there are out there," he said.

However, some addicts familiar with the heroin scene now believe "a
drought" was being planned by a network of dealers after last month's
seizures so prices could be pushed back up to the IEP40-a-bag level charged
in the 1980s. At least three organised crime gangs are believed to be
involved in shipping large amounts of heroin into the city, organising the
trade from Amsterdam, London and Manchester. The rest of the heroin on the
market is being shipped by smaller dealers who bring in kilo-loads from

In the last five years heroin has been selling for as little as IEP7 a bag.
The low price meant a generation of new addicts began smoking heroin, often
as a means of coming down after using ecstasy.

This latest drought is the first shortage since the Eastern Health Board
tightened up the methadone-prescribing system to prevent the synthetic
heroin substitute getting on to the black market. Addicts must be
registered with GPs or treatment centres and an identity card is being used
to ensure they cannot visit more than one doctor to get a prescription.

The methadone protocol has succeeded in stemming the flow of the
prescription drug on the black market, making it harder for addicts who
cannot afford heroin to fall back on methadone. The sale of cocaine, which
can be injected by heroin users, is expected to increase in deprived areas
as a result of the heroin shortage. An orchestrated heroin shortage could
be used by dealers to expand the market for cocaine among intravenous drug

More than 340 drug-users are on waiting lists for methadone treatment since
the protocol was introduced, despite the provision of 700 extra treatment
places in centres and through GPs.

The EHB has plans to set up another nine treatment centres, although there
is resistance from communities, who say they have not been consulted about
having a treatment centre in their areas. 
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Checked-by: Richard Lake