Home > Drug and alcohol misuse among young offenders on probation supervision in Ireland: findings from the Drugs and Alcohol Survey 2012.

Probation Service. Horgan, John J (2013) Drug and alcohol misuse among young offenders on probation supervision in Ireland: findings from the Drugs and Alcohol Survey 2012. Dublin: Probation Service.

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External website: http://www.probation.ie/

This research report presents the findings from a national survey on: “Drug and Alcohol Misuse among Young Offenders on Probation Supervision in Ireland". Undertaken by the Probation Service, the survey included all young offenders, aged 20 years or less who were subject to statutory supervision on the 3rd December 2012.

For the purposes of the survey, the following interventions by the Probation Service werenot included under the definition of supervision:
 Offenders in custody
 Offenders only subject to community service orders
 Offenders only referred for an assessment report
 Offenders aged 21 years and over

From the Probation Service data base (Case Tracking System) it was expected that the total population meeting the criteria would be 808. Questionnaires were in fact returned on 721 offenders. This 88% rate of return is comparatively high for mailed questionnaires. Of the 721 offenders on whom questionnaires were returned, 628 were identified by the Probation Officer as having misused at least one substance.

This report describes the key findings from the survey and consists of four main chapters, reflecting the key objectives which were, to:

  • Determine the number of young offenders under probation supervision who had misused drugs and/or alcohol (Chapter 3)
  • Investigate the nature and frequency of drug and alcohol misuse (Chapter 3)
  • To examine the context within which drug and alcohol misuse occurred (Chapter 4)
  • To ascertain whether a relationship exists between drug misuse and offendingbehaviour and alcohol misuse and offending behaviour (Chapter 5)
  • To identify the range and nature of engagement with drug and alcohol treatment services (Chapter 6)

The report concludes with a discussion of the survey’s findings. The discussion explores options for more effective engagement with young offenders to promote desistance and divert young people from the criminal justice system.

  • The following is a brief summary of the Key Findings
  • 87% of the survey population were reported as having misused drugs, alcohol or a combination of both
  • 12% had misused drugs only,
  • 12% had misused alcohol only and
  • 63% had misused both drugs and alcohol
  • Male and female offenders had relatively similar levels of substance misuse
  • Alcohol was the substance most often misused on a weekly basis; 39.8% of males and 43.6% of females.


  • Alcohol was recorded as the most common substance first misused, in excess of 50%, by offenders
  • The age of offenders commencing substance misuse ranged from eight years to eighteen years.
  • The majority commenced misuse between the ages of twelve and fifteen.
  • Fourteen was the median age to commence substance misuse.
  • More than 80% of offenders first engaged in substance misuse with their peers.
  • Of offenders who had misused a substance the survey identified that 38.9% of their parents had a history of substance misuse.

Relationship to Offending

  • In more than 80% of cases substance misuse was linked to current offending.
  • Alcohol was the substance most frequently linked to current offending.


  • Over half of the survey population had attended some form of drug/alcohol treatment.
  • The majority of offenders who had attended some form of treatment were aged between 18 years and 20 years.
Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Report
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
Crime prevention
56 p.
Probation Service
Corporate Creators
Probation Service
Place of Publication
Accession Number
HRB (Electronic Only)
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