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Sinclair, Hamish (2005) New information on cannabis use in Ireland. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 16, Winter 2005 , pp. 12-13.

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On 7 October 2005 the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) in Ireland and the Drugs and Alcohol Information and Research Unit within the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland published jointly the third bulletin of results from the 2002/2003 all-Ireland general population drug prevalence survey.1 This latest bulletin focuses on cannabis use in the adult population (15–64 years) and attitudes to cannabis use. Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs with responsibility for drugs strategy, Mr Noel Ahern TD, launched the findings for Ireland. This article highlights some of those findings.

 Current cannabis users (used cannabis in the last month) are more likely to use resinous hash than herbal cannabis (marijuana, weed, grass) and they most commonly smoke cannabis in a joint rather than consume it in other ways, such as using a pipe or eating it. In total, 2.6% of those surveyed had used cannabis in the month prior to the survey, of whom one out of every five (22%) were using cannabis daily or almost daily. Since the survey was representative of the adult population, it can be estimated from the above figures that approximately one in every 175 adults is using cannabis on a daily or almost daily basis.

Over a quarter (27%) of respondents who had ever taken cannabis stated that they had used it ‘regularly’ at some stage in their lives. This increased to almost a third (31%) for young adults (15–34 years). Regular use was self-defined by respondents. The average number of years between first use of cannabis and starting regular use of the drug was two years. This was the same for both young adults and older adults (35–64 years). Regular users were asked if they had ever tried to stop. Three out five (68%) had stopped, while 12% had tried, but failed to stop. Of the regular users who had successfully stopped using cannabis, 20% stated that they did so because of health concerns, while 23% stopped because they did not enjoy the after-effects.

The vast majority (79%) of those who had used cannabis in the last year (recent users) considered it ‘very easy’ or ‘fairly easy’ to obtain within a 24-hour period. This view on ease of access was expressed by both young adults and older adults. The house of a friend was the most common place where cannabis could be obtained and family and friends were the main sources of the drug.

All those surveyed who had heard of cannabis were asked about their attitudes to cannabis use. While most people did not wish cannabis to be permitted for recreational use, it is of note that one in five (21%) agreed (either fully or largely) that people should be permitted to take cannabis for recreational purposes, and almost one in three (30%) did not disapprove of people smoking cannabis occasionally. However, most of those surveyed (96%) felt that people who smoked cannabis regularly risked harming themselves, physically or in other ways. The perception of risk varied by age: younger adults perceived regular cannabis use as less risky than did older adults.

Drug prevalence surveys of the general population are important in that they can shed light on the patterns of drug use, both demographically and geographically and, if repeated, can track changes over time. They help to increase our understanding of drug use, and to formulate and evaluate drug policies. They also enable informed international comparisons, provided countries conduct surveys in a comparable manner.

The Irish drug prevalence survey followed best-practice guidelines recommended by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). The questionnaire, based on the ‘European Model Questionnaire’, was administered in face-to-face interviews with respondents aged between 15 and 64 years normally resident in households in Ireland. Fieldwork was carried out between October 2002 and April 2003. The final achieved sample was 4,918, representing a response rate of 70%. The sample was weighted by gender, age and region to maximise its representativeness of the general population.

1. National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Drug and Alcohol Information and Research Unit (2005) Drug use in Ireland and Northern Ireland. 2002/2003 drug prevalence survey: cannabis results. Dublin: National Advisory Committee on Drugs.

Item Type
Article
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Cannabis
Issue Title
Issue 16, Winter 2005
Date
October 2005
Page Range
pp. 12-13
Publisher
Health Research Board
Volume
Issue 16, Winter 2005
EndNote
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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