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Mongan, Deirdre (2008) Young people, alcohol and drugs. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 27, Autumn 2008 , p. 6.

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Young people, alcohol and drugs,1 the report of a study by Palmer and O’Reilly, was presented at an international conference at University College Dublin in May 2008. This study compared a  group of 462 second-level or post-Leaving Cert students aged 14–19 (the ‘community group’) to a similarly aged ‘clinical group’ of 30 adolescents in residential treatment for substance misuse in the south and south east of Ireland.  The study examined substance use behaviour, coping style, motivations for alcohol and drug use and family functioning. In addition, qualitative interviews were conducted with 10 young people from the clinical group. 

 In the community group, 86% stated that they consumed alcohol; the average age of first alcohol use was 13.4 years. The average number of drinks consumed on a typical drinking occasion was 5.7, ranging from four drinks among 15-year-olds to seven among 19-year-olds. One-third stated that they drank alcohol at least once a week; there was a pattern of more frequent drinking with increasing age. Spirits were the most common alcoholic drink, consumed by 54%, followed by alcopops (47%), cider (42%) and beer (39%). However, beer was the most popular drink among males (63%) and alcopops was the beverage of choice among females (72%). Binge drinking on a weekly basis, defined as consuming five or more drinks on a single drinking occasion, was reported by 23% of respondents.
Thirty-eight per cent of the community group reported negative consequences of alcohol use. Most frequently reported were: getting into an argument (20%); trouble at home (18%); accident or injury (13%); and a physical fight (13%). Males were significantly more likely than females to report that alcohol use had led to a physical fight, had led to damage to property, or had resulted in trouble with the police. 
Half of the community group reported having used an illicit drug, and the average age of first drug use was 14.5 years. Cannabis was the most commonly reported drug used (41%), followed by inhalants (30%), poppers (17%) and cocaine (11%). Regular use of cannabis, defined as once a month or more, was reported by 13%. Negative consequences of drug use were reported by 11% of the total group. In contrast to consequences of alcohol use, performance affected at school/work was the most common consequence of drug use (7%). 
Of the 30 participants in the clinical group, four met the criteria for an alcohol abuse disorder and 26 had an alcohol dependent disorder. Polydrug use was common, with 27 also meeting the criteria for dependence on other substances. This group reported a high level of co-existing psychological problems. The qualitative interviews identified a range of personal and environmental factors as influential in their initial substance use, including poor family functioning, and using alcohol as a coping strategy. 
This report identifies the need for epidemiological studies of substance use among young people. It recommends further research to evaluate the effectiveness of preventative interventions and to examine the efficacy of treatment interventions for adolescent substance misuse including long-term follow up in an Irish context. (Deirdre Mongan)
1. Palmer D and O’Reilly G (2008) Young people, alcohol and drugs. Cork: Juvenile Mental Health Matters.


Item Type
Issue Title
Issue 27, Autumn 2008
Page Range
p. 6
Health Research Board
Issue 27, Autumn 2008
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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