Prevalence of legal and illegal drug use

Recent use of any illegal drug –  at 12% –  was highest in the area covered by South and West Dublin City, South County Dublin, Kildare and West Wicklow area and lowest  -at 5% – in the area covered by Clare Limerick, Limerick City and  Tipperary NR, according to the latest Drug Prevalence Survey.

The 2014/15 report is the fourth drug prevalence survey of households by the Regional Drug and Alcohol Task Force (RDATF) in Ireland and Health and Social Care Trust (HSCT) in Northern Ireland.    The population survey is a drug prevalence survey and is intended to reflect drug use in the general population as a whole.

It provides a breakdown of prevalence rates by region for illegal drugs, tobacco, alcohol, sedatives, tranquillisers and anti-depressants and gambling.

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The report which covered October 2014 to May 2015 indicates that recent and current levels of illegal drug use increased in most of the ten Regional Drug and Alcohol Task Force (RDATF) areas between 2010/11 and 2014/15.

It found that cannabis was the most frequently used illegal drug in all RDATF areas in the year prior to the survey and that, after cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine were the most frequently reported illegal drugs for recent use.

The Chair of The National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol (NACDA), Professor Catherine Comiskey, said: “A comparison of the 2014/15 figures with the 2010/11 figures shows an overall increase in recent and current use of cannabis, ecstasy and anti-depressants for many regions.

“There are some exceptions, in particular the Clare, Limerick, Limerick City and Tipperary NR area, which has seen reductions or similar rates to 2010/11 for recent and current use of cannabis, ecstasy and anti-depressants.

For the purposes of this survey, the general population is taken to mean those aged 15 and over and normally residing in households in Ireland.  It does not include those residing in institutions such as prisons, residential care, nursing homes or hospitals

The main findings of the report

Those who had ever used a drug

  • Prevalence rate for those who had ever used an illegal drug was highest – at 41% – in the East Wicklow and North Dublin City and Fingal areas and lowest – at 20% – in the Donegal, Leitrim, and Sligo and West Cavan area.

Last year prevalence

  • Cannabis was the most frequently used illegal drug in all RDATF areas in the year prior to the survey and after cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine were the most frequently reported illegal drugs for recent use
  • Cannabis use in the last year by young adults (aged 15-34) increased significantly in many RDATF regions
  • Recent use (in the year prior to the survey) of ecstasy in young adults (aged 15-34) has increased in all RDATF areas and significantly so in many areas.  The largest increases were seen in the Galway, Mayo and Roscommon area and South and West Dublin City, South County Dublin, Kildare and West Wicklow area.
  • Recent use of other opiates – at 58% – was highest in the South and West Dublin City, South County Dublin, Kildare and West Wicklow area and lowest – at 35% – in the East Cavan, Louth, and Meath and Monaghan area.
  • Recent use of anti-depressants – at 9% – was highest in the Carlow, Kilkenny, Tipperary SR, Waterford and Wexford area  and lowest – at 4% — in the Clare, Limerick, Limerick City and Tipperary North Riding area and the  Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo and West Cavan area.
  • Last year alcohol prevalence ranged from 67% in the Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo and West Cavan area  to 83% in the South and South West Dublin City, South County Dublin, Kildare and West Wicklow area.
  • Recent tobacco use – at 35% – was highest in the South and West Dublin City, South County Dublin, Kildare and West Wicklow area followed by the East Wicklow area at 34% and lowest in the Cork and Kerry area at 28%.
  • The lowest rates of last year use of any illegal drug by young adults (aged 15-34) were seen in the three most southerly areas – the Cork and Kerry area, the Clare, Limerick, Limerick City and Tipperary NR area and the Carlow, Kilkenny, Tipperary SR, Waterford and Wexford area

Last month use

Current use (in the previous month) of any illegal drugs was  highest  – at 8% – in the South and West Dublin City, South County Dublin, Kildare and West Wicklow area  and lowest- at 2% – in the Clare, Limerick, Limerick City and Tipperary North Riding area.

As in previous surveys, males were more likely to take illegal drugs than females, and young adults (15-34) more likely than older adults (35-64).