Young Irish among top drug users in Europe, says report

26 November 2004
By Cormac O’Keeffe, Brussels

IRELAND is ranked towards the top of the European drug league, particularly for cocaine and ecstasy, according to a new report.
The report, published by the EU drugs agency, also expressed concern that a small, but growing, group of cannabis smokers were becoming more heavy users of the drug.

The 2003 annual report of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) estimates between 1-4% of young adults in the EU are using cannabis daily. Ireland is towards the top of that group, with 3% of 15-34-year-olds smoking it every day.

The report, using more recent data from Ireland (2002/2003), removes us from the top of the EU drug table, where we were in previous reports under older, 1998, figures.

In the 15-64 age group and the 15-34 age sub-group, Ireland is generally ranked in fourth or fifth place for ecstasy and cocaine and around tenth for cannabis over three different time periods - lifetime use, use in the last year and use within the last month.

Dr Jean Long of the Drug Misuse Research Division of the Health Research Board - the national focal point for the EMCDDA - said Ireland was more “in the middle” of the EU range in relation to cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy.

She said while Ireland’s rank may be higher for cocaine and ecstasy, the actual percentages placed us towards the middle of all 25 countries.

The EMCDDA report also highlighted a growing problem in relation to heavy cannabis use.

Dr Long said data showed that 3% of young Irish adults smoked cannabis daily, placing us at the top end of the EU average.

She said the number of treatment cases for problem cannabis use doubled between 1998 and 2002, from 2,088 to 4,422.

Dr Long said 30% of new cases outside the Eastern Regional Health Authority in 2002 were under 18.

In relation to chronic cannabis use the EMCDDA report commented: “Among the key concerns in this area are an increased risk of lung cancer and other respiratory diseases and an association with the development of long-term psychiatric health problems, including depressive illness, psychosis and schizophrenia.”

The report noted a general rise in cocaine and the emergence of crack cocaine in seven countries, including Ireland.

But among recreational users, cocaine consumption was light and continued use was rare, it said.


5% of Irish young adults have taken cocaine as some stage - fourth highest in the EU.

7% have taken ecstasy at some stage - fifth highest in the EU.

24% have smoked cannabis - tenth highest among the 25 member states.

2% have taken cocaine in the last year - fourth highest.

2% have taken ecstasy in the last year - fifth highest.

Cannabis use doubled in Ireland, from 2,088 in 1998 to 4,422 in 2002.

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