Drug Use in Ireland - Results from the 2006/2007 Drug Prevalence Survey Bulletin 1

1 Feb 2008

The first Results from the 2006/2007 Drug Prevalence Survey was launched by Mr. Pat Carey, T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy.

Presenting the findings, Mairéad Lyons, Director at the NACD, stated that:

  • almost one in four people (24%) have ever used an illegal drug in Ireland;
  • one in fourteen (7%) had used an illegal drug in the last year in Ireland and
  • one in 30 (3%) had used an illegal drug in the last month in Ireland.

As one would expect, increases in lifetime use were observed since the previous survey across a range of illegal drugs including:

Lifetime use

  • Any illegal drug, up from 18.5% in 2002/3 to 24% in 2006/7
  • Cannabis, up from 17.4% in 2002/3 to 21.9% in 2006/7;
  • Magic mushrooms, up from 3.9% in 2002/3 to 5.8% in 2006/7;
  • Ecstasy, up from 3.7% in 2002/3 to 5.4% in 2006/7;
  • Cocaine, up from 2.9% in 2002/3 to 5% in 2006/7.

Last year use (statistically significant changes)

  • Any illegal drugs (age 15-64), up from 5.6% in 2002/3 to 7.2% in 2006/7;
  • Any illegal drugs (age 25-34), up from 6.6% in 2002/3 to 9.2% in 2006/7;
  • Any illegal drugs (women), up from 3.4% in 2002/3 to 4.7% in 2006/7.

Commenting on the findings, Dr. Des Corrigan, Chairperson of the NACD, said that most people in Ireland have never used an illicit drug. Dr. Corrigan explained that, in relation to current use (use in the last month), figures continue to be low showing little change since 2002/3 - indeed the last month use of any illegal drug decreased slightly from 3% to 2.9% over that period, while last month cannabis use was static at 2.6%.

In terms of age groups, lifetime prevalence for any illegal drugs was highest among those aged 25-34 years (34%); followed by those aged 15-24 years (28%) and those aged 35-44 years (27%).

A higher proportion of men than women continue to report lifetime, last year and last month use of any illegal drugs. Women and older adults report higher use of sedatives, tranquillisers and anti-depressants.

Dr. Corrigan said that, as with other surveys across Europe, people over the age of 64 are not included so that more meaningful results are obtained. People of that age group grew up in an era when both the use and availability of illegal drugs were very limited.

"Surveys of older people have, to date, shown very low rates of use even on a lifetime basis. This situation is likely to change over time as the younger population with more exposure to different drugs grows older. Hence lifetime prevalence rates are likely to increase for a considerable period of time", he said.

In a European context Dr. Corrigan noted that not all EU countries used the standard approach to population surveys recommended by the EMCDDA which makes comparisons difficult, but that among those which did use the same approach as the NACD, Ireland was not at the top for any drug category.

Dr. Corrigan added that continued use of this type of survey is essential in picking up trends over time. Such general population surveys, which give a snapshot in time of what is happening in relation to drug use in the lives of ordinary households, can only realistically be conducted every four years or so. Meanwhile, he said that the NACD will be recommending the implementation of a Drug Trend Monitoring System as part of its submission to the Steering Group for the review of the National Drugs Strategy.

Generally, Ireland has marginally lower prevalence rates than Northern Ireland for lifetime and last year use.