Cocaine is the most commonly used illegal stimulant in Europe

The HSE has insisted its new drug awareness campaign will not encourage  more people to take drugs.

The health service launched the campaign in partnership with the Ana Liffey Drug Project as new figures show that cocaine is now more available - and at its highest purity - in Europe than it has been for over a decade.

According to the figures, cocaine is the continent's most commonly used illicit stimulant - with Ireland ranking fourth highest for its use among young adults.

Meanwhile, three out of 10 Irish people aged between 15 and 64-years-old have used cannabis, MDMA or cocaine in their lifetime.

The new campaign aims to highlight the dangers of cocaine - and provide guidance on reducing the harm for users.

Launching the campaign, Ana Liffey CEO Tony Duffin said it is about reducing the serious harm caused by drugs - and will not encourage anybody to begin using.

"It just doesn't," he said.

"I think the evidence is quite clear- the information is used by people who do take drugs.

"I think people find it interesting; I think people find it fascinating that the posters are up and it creates a conversation.

"But the idea that providing crack pipes to people makes people take crack - it just doesn't add up."

The campaign notes that it is "always safest" not to take illegal drugs at all.

However, it offers practical hands-on advice for those that do use either cocaine or crack cocaine.

Cocaine users are advised to purchase the drug form a known source, never to mix it with other drugs or alcohol and to grind the drugs to remove ant clumps or crystals before snorting.

Crack user meanwhile, are advised never to share a crack-pipe, never to use a homemade pipe and to "avoid smoking the full rock."

It also warns users who are injecting the drug to "start low and go slow to avoid overdose."

Users of either drug are advised to seek medical help for the adverse mental and physical effects  of both drugs.