But community activists said the Government was not putting the necessary resources in place to implement plans aimed at combating the problem.
Mr Carey said he wanted to raise the dangers associated with cocaine and other drugs without “sermonising” at young people.
“I am very concerned at the rise in cocaine use. The increase is particularly among young adults. While the overall last year prevalence of 1.7% is still relatively low, the corresponding figure of 3.1% for young adults aged 15-34 shows a disturbing trend.”
He said he was implementing the recommendations of last year’s cocaine report by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs, including training of frontline workers and counsellors, as well as changes to drug treatment services.
“This is not a time for complacency. We need to increase our resolve. From anecdotal evidence and evidence of deaths in the last six months I suspect the level of cocaine misuse hasn’t stopped rising.” Launching the Drug Prevalence Study 2006/2007, he said the rise in recent drug use was of greater concern that the rise in lifetime use.
He said a national awareness campaign, developed by the HSE, would be launched in February, and would use both traditional media and internet media.
Drugs advisory chairman Des Corrigan said: “Drugs messages are there all the time: ‘drugs are fun’, ‘drugs are glamorous’. This is part of the thing we need to knock without sermonising or preaching. A drug like cocaine is not safe, it is a poison, it will always be a poison.”
He said the more people that experimented, the more that got into trouble.
He said while the lifetime drug figure was high, it should be seen in the context of much greater use of alcohol, with about 70% of people reporting use within the last month.
Anna Quigley, of the Citywide Drugs Crisis Campaign, said while cocaine was used across all classes, it had a devastating effect on certain communities in Dublin . “There are plans there in relation to cocaine, rehabilitation, but are the resources there to implement them,” she said.
Fine Gael Seanad drugs spokesman senator Jerry Buttimer said: “Drugs Minister Pat Carey is right to be ‘worried and disturbed’ by the escalating cocaine use. But he should also be worried by the Government’s abject failure to do anything about Ireland ’s growing drugs problem at any stage of its ten years in power.”
By Cormac O’Keeffe