Sunday, December 09, 2007

Model's death reveals depth of Ireland's cocaine addiction

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.model Katy French

Henry McDonald
Sunday December 9, 2007
The Observer

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.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

A gramme of cocaine in Dublin costs around €40 (£29), 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 €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.