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Home > Results from the third general population survey in Ireland.

Long, Jean (2012) Results from the third general population survey in Ireland. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 40, Winter 2011 , pp. 6-8.

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On 22 November 2011, the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) and and the Public Health Information and Research Branch (PHIRB) of the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) in Northern Ireland published jointly the results of the third all-Ireland general population drug prevalence survey.1 These surveys are done every four years. This article presents a summary of the methods and results for Ireland.  

The 2010/11 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. The questionnaire had been revised to include better measures of problematic alcohol and cannabis use, and three questions about new psychoactive substances sold in head shops or online. The detailed results from these new questions will be published in future bulletins. The response options for questions about other opiate-type substances used were increased to include codeine and other commonly used opiates; this may account for the increase in the use of other opiates when compared to the previous surveys. Fieldwork was carried out by MORI MRC during late 2010 and early 2011. Of the household members contacted, 5,134 (60%) agreed to take part. The sample was weighted by gender, age and region to ensure that it was representative of the general population. The main measures of use were lifetime (ever used), use in the last year (recent use) and use in the last month (current use).
 
Use of any illegal drug
Compared with the previous survey, the proportion of adults (aged 15–64 years) who reported using an illegal drug in their lifetime increased by just over 3%, from 24% in 2006/7 to 27.2% in 2010/11 (Table 1). The proportion of young adults (aged 15–34 years) who reported using an illegal drug in their lifetime also increased, by just over 4%, from 31.4% in 2006/7 to 35.7% in 2010/11. As expected, more men (35.5%) reported using an illegal drug in their lifetime than women (19%).  

The proportion of adults who reported using an illegal drug in the last year remained reasonably stable at 7.2% in 2006/7 and 7% in 2010/11 (Table 1). The proportion of young adults who reported using an illegal drug in the last year also remained stable, at 12.2% in 2006/7 and 12.3% in 2010/11. The proportion of young adults who reported using an illegal drug in the last month was 5.3%.

 

Cocaine use
Lifetime cocaine use increased in 2010/11 compared to 2006/7, but last-year use remained stable. The proportion of adults who reported using cocaine (including crack) at some point in their lives increased from 5.3% in 2006/7 to 6.8% in 2010/11 (Table 3). The proportion of young adults who reported using cocaine in their lifetime also increased, from 8.2% in 2006/7 to 9.4% in 2010/11. As expected, more men (9.9%) reported using cocaine in their lifetime than women (3.8%).  

The proportion of adults who reported using cocaine in the last year remained reasonably stable at 1.7% in 2006/7 and 1.5% in 2010/11 (Table 2.2.3). The proportion of young adults who reported using cocaine in the last year did not vary significantly, being 3.1% in 2006/7 and 2.8% in 2010/11. The proportion of adults who reported using cocaine in the last month remained stable at 0.5%.

Ecstasy use
Almost 11% of young adults surveyed in 2010/11 claimed to have tried ecstasy at least once in their lifetime (Table 4). More young men (15%) reported using ecstasy in their lifetime than young women (6%). The proportion of young adults who used ecstasy in the last year decreased significantly, from 2.4% in 2006/7 to 0.9% in 2010/11.  The decrease in ecstasy use may be partly explained by the proportion (6.7%) of young people reporting use of new psychoactive substances sold in head shops and on line.

The increase in the proportions using any illegal drug at some point in their lives between 2006/7 and 2011/12 was influenced by the fact that drug use in Ireland is a recent phenomenon and the population of lifetime and recent drug users is relatively young. Drug use is measured among adults aged 15–64, and those leaving this age group over the next five years are less likely to have been exposed to drug use than those entering the measurement cohort. The relative stability in last-year use of cannabis and cocaine indicates that the situation with respect to these drugs has stabilised.   

When compared to the 19 other countries that completed a general population survey on drug use using the European model questionnaire, Ireland ranks eighth highest for lifetime use of cannabis, fourth for lifetime use of amphetamines, fourth for use of cocaine, second for ecstasy and second for LSD. 
 
1. National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) & Public Health Information and Research Branch (PHIRB) (2011) Drug use in Ireland and Northern Ireland: first results from the 2010/11Drug Prevalence Survey. Bulletin 1. Dublin: NACD & PHIRB. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/16450
 
2. European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (2011) Statistical bulletin 2011.  Accessed 20 November 2011 at http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/stats11/gps  

Cannabis use
Lifetime cannabis use increased over the four years since the 2006/7 survey, but last-year use remained stable (Table 2). The proportion of adults who reported using cannabis at some point in their life increased from 21.9% in 2006/7 to 25.3% in 2010/11. The proportion of young adults who reported using cannabis in their lifetime also increased, from 28.6% in 2006/7 to 33.4% in 2010/11. The lifetime prevalence rate in 2010/11 was higher for men (33.2%) than for women (17.5%). 

The proportion of adults who reported using cannabis in the last year did not decrease significantly in 2010/11 (6.0%) when compared to 2006/7 (6.3%). The proportion of young adults who reported using cannabis in the last year remained reasonably stable over the last two survey periods (Table 2). The proportion of adults who reported using cannabis in the last month remained stable also, at 2.8%

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