An addiction counsellor at the Cuan Mhuire addiction treatment centre in Bruree, Co Limerick, has warned of a surge in those seeking help with cocaine addiction.

Counsellor Michael Guerin said there is a waiting list of 250 young men waiting for treatment.

The waiting list figure was between 60 to 75 two years ago.

He said the centre has 26 treatment beds but only six detox beds. This has pushed the waiting time for those in need back to between three and six months.

Each one of those detox beds is about 40-times oversubscribed the demand is so high.

He said that the biggest problem on that waiting list is those addicted to cocaine who are crying out for help.

Mr Guerin said that many of them are starting to take cocaine as young as 13, moving from alcohol and cannabis use.

He said extra resources are needed for addiction treatment right across the country, as well as a robust educational and prevention programme in schools to prevent young people aged 12 and 13 today becoming the "20-something-year-old addicts in ten years' time".

Conor, 25, who is undergoing a 20-week treatment programme at the centre, said he became addicted to cocaine and tablets at around 13.

He said the drug was easy to get where he lived and he could get it as easily as buying a packet of cigarettes.

His drug use led to heartache for his family, severe mental health difficulties for himself, and two suicide attempts.

He said he took cocaine by choice, but would warn young people to make different choices because of the way drugs make the lives of addicts and their families completely unmanageable.

Minister for State at the Department of Health Catherine Byrne acknowledged the growing concerns over cocaine addiction, which is challenging and dangerous, particularly among young people.

She said there are 675 treatment/rehab beds available across the country.

There are no plans to increase funding at present to the Cuan Mhuire centre but she said €242 million was put into these services last year, and she will continue to seek further funding in the budget.