Gardaí in Limerick have seized drugs valued at over €1.6 million in the first nine months of this year, a Joint Policing committee in Limerick has heard.

The number of people arrested for the sale and supply of drug offences is also up significantly, at 46%.

Addressing councillors and TDs, Chief Supt Gerard Roche said 175 people had been brought before the courts on drugs sale and supply charges so far in 2020, which was a very significant increase in detections over last year.

The committee was told that cocaine and cannabis accounted for the bulk of the drugs seized amounting to over €1.2 million.

He said the sale of cannabis juice and jellies was of special concern as these are aimed at the teenage market, and are a particular threat as young people can take a small amount and overdose.

Chief Supt Roche said the purchase of cocaine as a recreational drug of choice among young people who have money, including sports people, is driving that lucrative and expensive drugs market.

They consume it while out drinking and this practice is increasing all the time, he warned.

Many users do not know that cocaine can show up in tests conducted several days - and up to a month - after consumption.

He said Garda Traffic units are carrying out roadside drug testing, but these tests are more complex and take considerably longer to confirm drug taking compared to drink driving.

They can take up to 15 minutes to process, rather than just one minute for a drink driving test.

Chief Supt Roche said there are just five such test kits in Limerick issued to the road traffic units only - not to the district units - by the Road Safety Authority.

He said gardaí need more of these machines.

If more random roadside drug tests were carried out on people who tested positive for drugs days after consuming them, he believed this would send out a very strong message.