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Sinclair, Hamish (2005) Community groups carry out research on local drug issues. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 13, Spring 2005 , pp. 4-5.

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In December 2001 the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) launched a Community/Voluntary Sector Research Grant Scheme to ‘generate innovative, community-based drugs research’.1 This grant-supported research aimed to:

  • promote a better understanding of drug-related issues in communities
  • boost the research capacity of the community/voluntary sector and, consequently, their capacity to influence policy and the planning of services
  • facilitate liaison between community/voluntary organisations, service planners and service providers to optimise the development of needs-based policies and services1

Following a competitive selection process, five grants were awarded and four organisations completed their research projects. These were written up as four separate reports and launched by Mr Noel Ahern TD, Minister of State for the National Drugs Strategy on 4 October 2004.

Two of these reports are featured in this issue:

  • Kilbarrack Coast Community Programme: A prevalence study of drug use by young people in a mixed suburban area
  • Tallaght Homeless Advice Unit: Heroin – the mental roof over your head. Links between homelessness and drug use

The remaining two reports will be covered in the next issue:  

·         Ballymun Youth Action Project: Benzodiazepines – whose little helper? The role of benzodiazepines in the development of substance misuse problems in Ballymun

·         Merchants Quay Ireland: Drug use among new communities in Ireland. An exploratory study

A prevalence study of drug use by young people in a mixed suburban area
This research study was carried out by Dave Farrington and Alison Connor on behalf of the Kilbarrack Coast Community Programme (KCCP).2 The main aim of the study was to establish the prevalence of drug use, including the use of tobacco and alcohol, among young people aged 10 to 18 in the KCCP catchment area. This area includes Kilbarrack and parts of Raheny (North East Dublin) and coincides with the three electoral divisions, Grange D, Raheny Greendale and Raheny Foxfield. The area as a whole is described in the report as being quite ‘settled’, with low to moderate levels of socio-economic deprivation. Rather than survey a representative sample of young people in the KCCP catchment area, the researchers set out with the intention to survey all, or as much as possible, of the area’s youth population. By extrapolating from the 1996 Census figures, they estimated that the population aged 10 to 18 in the area was 1,292.  

The methodology adopted involved surveying all school-going children with an address in the catchment area attending the four primary and two secondary schools in the catchment area. In addition, two secondary schools in the surrounding area were included since they were known to have a large number of students from the catchment area. A self-completed questionnaire was administered in the classroom setting by the researchers. The exact dates on which the survey was conducted are not given in the report. A total of 292 questionnaires were completed, but seven of these were subsequently discarded due to inconsistent responses. It is not clear from the report if all selected school children responded to the questionnaire. The 285 valid questionnaires represented a shortfall of over three-quarters from the estimated population of this age to be surveyed. A number of possible reasons were given for this, including: demographic changes since the 1996 Census; large numbers attending schools in other areas; absence from school when the survey was conducted; and early school leaving. This shortfall in what was intended to be a census of young people makes it difficult to generalise from the results, since the final sample was not a random selection of young people and it is not clear how representative those who were surveyed are of the whole youth population of the KCCP catchment area. Therefore, the results should be interpreted with caution.

Table 1 presents the results of lifetime (ever used), last year (recent use) and last month (current use) use of selected drugs, including alcohol and tobacco.

 

Table 1   Lifetime, last year and last month use of selected drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, among surveyed school-going children (10–18 years) living in the KCCP catchment area

 

 

Used in lifetime

(%)

Used in last year

(%)

Used in last month

(%)

Alcohol

76.1

66.3

51.0

Tobacco

54.7

35.0

24.7

Cannabis

37.2

31.6

21.4

Inhalants

16.5

7.8

3.9

Sedatives

8.3

4.8

2.2

Cocaine

6.1

6.1

2.5

Ecstasy

3.6

2.2

1.1

Amphetamines

2.9

1.5

0.4

Tranquillisers

2.2

1.5

0.7

LSD

1.1

0.7

0.4

Heroin

0.7

0.7

0.4

Crack cocaine

0.4

0.4

0.0

 

 Of the school children surveyed, lifetime use of tobacco (54.7%) was higher than that of cannabis (37.2%); however, recent and current use of cannabis (31.6% and 21.4% respectively) were almost as high as recent and current tobacco use (35.0% and 24.7% respectively). This would suggest that cannabis was now being used or at least tried as commonly as tobacco in this group of children. Another interesting finding is that lifetime and last-year prevalence rates of cocaine use were the same (6.1%). This would suggest that cocaine use is a recent phenomenon in this group of children.

Apart from the school survey, the researchers administered the same questionnaire to 15 young people living in the KCCP catchment area who had left school without completing their Leaving Certificate (defined as early school leavers in this study). The early school leavers, aged between 16 and 19, were identified with assistance from local youth projects and other agencies. While the numbers in the early school leavers survey were small, an attempt was made to compare their drug use with that of school-going children aged 16 to 18 (n=74). One notable difference was that over half of the early school leavers (8/15=53.3%) were current cocaine users, compared to less than seven per cent (5/74=6.8%) of school students.

In an effort to check the findings of the survey the researchers interviewed 30 adults living or working in the KCCP catchment area. These individuals were selected on the basis of their professional, voluntary or personal involvement with the drugs issue, or with young people in the community. According to the authors, the views of the majority of those interviewed were in line with the main findings of the survey.

1. Details of the Community/Voluntary Sector Research Grant Scheme can be found on the NACD website at Community/Voluntary Sector Research Grant Scheme

2. Kilbarrack Coast Community Programme (2004) A prevalence study of drug use by young people in a mixed suburban area. Dublin: National Advisory Committee on Drugs.

Item Type
Article
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Issue Title
Issue 13, Spring 2005
Date
January 2005
Page Range
pp. 4-5
Publisher
Health Research Board
Volume
Issue 13, Spring 2005
EndNote
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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