Women are engaging in sex trade to pay off drug debts

By Aideen O'Flaherty

SOME women in West Tallaght who are struggling with crack cocaine addiction have become involved in sex work in order to pay off their drug debt, according to community drug workers.

They have warned that if the ongoing issue with crack cocaine addiction isn’t dealt with the ramifications will be felt in the community “for years to come”.

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Dr Garrett McGovern runs drug clinics in community projects in Tallaght and Crumlin

Drug workers in the area told The Echo that other issues that have been worsening include the use of children in the “drug economy”, and they have also received reports of drug dealers targeting and intimidating people who are trying to recover from crack cocaine addiction.

Shane Hamilton, coordinator of JADD (Jobstown Assisting Drug Dependency), told The Echo: “Research has shown that this is across the board, that there are women who engage in prostitution because they can’t afford to pay back their drug debt.

“There was recently some research done in the northside about this, but it’s happening in Tallaght as well.

“If you look at the context of crack cocaine addiction, it’s an extremely addictive substance, and what is surprising is the extreme level of poverty that is caused by it, and the desperate measures people have to go to, to pay back their debt.”

Crack cocaine is a highly addictive form of smokable cocaine, which costs less than many other street drugs, but the spiralling debt that comes about as a result of addiction to the drug, and the knock-on impact it has on the drug user and the wider community, is a cause of concern.

Larry O’Neill, CEO of the South Dublin County Partnership, told The Echo: “I wonder what level of deprivation we’ll have to sink to before something is done.

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Larry O’Neill, CEO of the South Dublin County Partnership

“We know that all around South Dublin County kids as young as nine or ten are being used to deliver drugs.

“How far down do we have to go? Women are being forced into prostitution and sexual favours to pay off drug debt.

“When I see that happening to young women, it horrifies me.

“We’ve been told about people leaving rehab being offered drugs, and dealers putting drugs through their letterbox.

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(Image: File shot)

“We need supports to prevent intimidation, to be there for the drug users and their families, and to resource our rehab projects to a proper extent.

“I’m really flummoxed at how easily it has gotten to this level – if we don’t do something now, it may be beyond redemption.”

Dr Garrett McGovern, who runs drug clinics in community projects in Tallaght and Crumlin, said that the level of deprivation experienced by those struggling with crack cocaine addiction is worrying, as is the lack of treatment facilities to help those who want to get into recovery.

“Crack cocaine has been an issue for many years,” Dr McGovern explained, “and you tend to know which patients are addicted to it because they haven’t a pick on them and they have the associated drug debt.

“Treatment facilities aren’t plentiful, and it’s not like using methadone for heroin addiction – you have to do intense therapy to get off crack cocaine.

“A lot of people are so entrenched in the habit that they’re not looking at treatment, and the issue tends to be forgotten about as it largely hits marginalised communities. It’s a drug of social inequality.”

Dr McGovern added: “I’ve had issues where Tusla have had to become involved, and it’s very ugly – it has a terrible impact on the children, and it’s incredibly traumatic and difficult for the parents.”

Similarly, Mr Hamilton from JADD also explained the devastating impact that addiction has on drug users and their families.

“The social impact of crack cocaine addiction is the most damaging we’ve seen from any drug in the last 20 or 30 years, because of its impact on a person’s ability to cope with their everyday life,” he said.

“It affects finances, mental health, and it will lead to more cases of people losing their homes and becoming homeless.”

Increased funding is needed to deal with crack cocaine addiction in Tallaght, according to Mr Hamilton and Mr O’Neill, as resources for drug projects in the area are already stretched and the issue is worsening.

Mr O’Neill added: “The drug rehab projects are given a pittance by the government. They need a fundamental overhaul – they were never set up to deal with this level of addiction.”

Dr McGovern said the drugs trade should be regulated in order to “get rid of drug dealers”, but he added that treatment for and awareness of crack cocaine addiction is an important aspect of dealing with the issue, and there needs to be more investment in treatment facilities.

For details on local drug projects visit the Tallaght Drug and Alcohol Task Force website at www.tallaghtdatf.ie or call them on 01 464 9303.

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