Ciarán Casey of Limerick-based My Move Counselling and Addiction Services has seen cocaine addiction increase in the farming community since 2015.

“While it’s an issue everywhere in society, not just among farmers, the graph is definitely going upwards in relation to the farming community within the last three or four years, not only in relation to cocaine, but to weed and hash also,” he says.

“The danger in farming is that cocaine is often used to keep people awake, and alert, while they are actually working at silage, slurry, or baling. The two most important things for a body to function properly is sleep and fuel [food]. They are trying to counteract that, [to] manipulate themselves with cocaine.”

In Ciarán’s experience, alcohol and cocaine usually go hand-in-hand.

“Anyone who started with cocaine you can be sure was, number one, under the influence of alcohol, and number two, probably in a group at the time. And the last thing in their mind at that time was that potentially, in five or six years’ time, this could destroy their life and their family’s life.

Ciarán Casey of Limerick-based My Move Counselling and Addiction Services.

“Nearly everyone who takes it for the first time thinks they are bullet proof, but addiction by its nature gets progressively worse,” he continues, “and after three or four years you’re in trouble. There are farmers out there who have lost their farms because of this and gambling. Cross-addiction is now a reality for many, also.”

Ciarán counsels young people from the ages of 18 or 19 up to age 35. “That’s the age bracket,” he says. “They are the phone calls we are getting on an ongoing basis.”

“If a farm family is struggling financially and they’ve the worry of a son or daughter addicted to cocaine and in debt to dealers, that affects the whole emotional dynamic of the family.

“There’s huge stress and anxiety. It’s important to say, too, that it is a reality that a good 65% of suicides in this country are addiction related,” he says.


Ciarán paints a dismal picture of the reality of cocaine abuse.

“For anyone who is engaged in addiction, unfortunately, the domino effect is that the people they are closest to, the loves in their lives - usually wives and girlfriends - are badly affected. In many cases, family members get equally as sick as the person engaging in the addiction - and a lot sicker, at times. Worry, dread, panic and blame and all that goes with it – they go through all that.”

Depending on how well-off a person is financially, they might have a chance of hiding their addiction for a while, he states, but in most cases the cocaine addiction highlights itself because there is debt to be paid to the dealers.

“They haven’t got the money and Mammy and Daddy get dragged in and pay the debt to that dealer and then he’s off getting it from some other dealer. I know one fella who has paid €27,000 in drug debts so it can go up that high, but it’s usually that you go up to €1,500 or €2,000. When there are drug dealers looking for money, the family is sick then with fear with the dealers calling and threatening. It just goes to a different level then.”

Ciarán describes the devastation that cocaine addiction causes for a person.

“Financially, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually and socially, the person becomes bankrupt in every area of their life. And sometimes physically, when the debt isn’t paid.”

Reality of addiction

The biggest stumbling block to a person getting well – recovering from addiction – is the need to change.

“Most people think it’ll be different the next time [they’re tempted] and they probably mean it at the time, but unfortunately addiction is so awful and so powerful that it’ll actually convince you that you haven’t got the addiction so it may only be a matter of time before you are back bang smack in the middle of the merry-go-round again.”

He sees men as being particularly reluctant to seek help, unfortunately.

“It’s probably a culture thing that they don’t reach out and pick up the phone to look for help [as easily as women would]. It appears to be the hardest thing to do is to say: ‘Hands up, I’m under pressure. I need a bit of help and support here.’”

Ciarán believes that a person will only get well and recover from addiction when they are fully ready to do so.

“That could be in any treatment centre like St John of God’s, St Pat’s, Aiséirí, Bushy Park, Taber Lodge, Taber Grove and others, any counselling rooms like My Move Counselling and Addiction Services or in any AA or NA meeting,” he says.

“It is different for everybody. If someone is in the trenches of addiction, though, he needs residential treatment whether it is for a month or three months, to be taken out of society and shown a new way of life, of keeping yourself separated from your addiction. For others it will be a 12-week intensive face-to-face non-residential programme that also involves family therapy and follow up afterwards. Going through the 12 weeks of counselling treatment, wherever it is, allows you to look at every area of your live. It’s a full emotional NCT.”

Crisis point

The “end crisis” can vary for people, however.

“Some have to hit that wall a good few times before they reach out and some seek help earlier. Others come in crisis. It varies for a lot of people.”

There are stages of addiction – beginning, middle and end, he says.

“Ideally, you’d like to see people reach out well before they reach the half way stage, but unfortunately they’ll [convince] themselves during that whole process that it’ll be okay the next time. That trait and characteristic is there with everybody irrespective of what addiction it is.”

While a time frame can’t be put on recovery, counsellors will have an accurate view, after an initial assessment, of what the best programme is for the person to follow.

New blueprint

However, he is positive about the impact that recovery has.

“For the person who does get well, it’s a totally new way of life, a new blueprint for life and most people who are ruthless and stick to the new blueprint of life and take on board what’s suggested will usually stay well. There is hope there. 99.9% of the people who get well have changed their attitude, their thinking, their whole social way of life. The people who stick to that are those who get well and get longevity in their recovery.

“Thankfully people are getting well and staying well and it’s changing their lives and their family’s lives and that’s your wish for anyone who comes into any treatment centre.”

Recovery involves avoiding people, places and things related to your addiction.

“It’s not instant, it’s a process but if they stick to the process, all of a sudden after three weeks they are enjoying the taste of recovery. Then, it’s following through with a plan for recovery for everyone after that. That would involve getting your aftercare weekly and also your [12 Step] meetings on top of that, whether it’s AA or NA [Narcotics Anonymous] or GA [Gamblers Anonymous].”

Ciarán says that it is a beautiful experience to journey with people who fully commit, engage and manage to get well in their addiction.

“You try to get them to see that they are taking authority and control back over their life because when they are engaged in the addiction, they are giving away all that and they are being dictated to by their addiction.

“Anybody who gets well from addiction is a walking, talking miracle from where they’ve come and it’s great to be there and witness that.

“And a lot of people do get well. If you fully commit to getting well, I guarantee you will stay well. The longer you stay well, the easier it gets, in my opinion, but you still can’t take it for granted. You still have to live by a new blueprint for life that will keep you well.”

Treatment for family

As with residential treatment for those addicted to cocaine, families are offered treatment at the same time as the addicted person is undergoing intensive counselling.

“Family members need a lot of support also. As well as the weekly family support meeting, some family members need additional help - counselling - to steer them back into shape again.

“For a typical couple with a family member with addiction that’s going on a good number of years, the parents would have heard apologies for about four years or so. It won’t happen again… I’m sorry… Broken trust is a huge issue for the family and the trust doesn’t come back overnight.

“There are a good few bridges that need to be mended and there is only one way that can happen. If the person stays well long enough, the bridges are automatically mended along that journey. When the trust comes back into the house, it’s huge. The whole family tends to heal together. That’s what you’re hoping for.”

Ciarán’s message is that hope and recovery is possible.

“Reach out and get help. Addiction will by its nature tell you: ‘You’re fine, keep it going, you’re okay,’ and next thing you’re back on the merry-go-round, so reach out, get help. You don’t have to wait ‘til you’re in the trenches of rock bottom. A lot of people are getting well and staying well.”