Home > Changing drug trends but static policies.

Pike, Brigid (2015) Changing drug trends but static policies. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 54, Summer 2015, pp. 7-8.

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On 21–23 May 2015 the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy (ISSDP) held its ninth annual conference, in Ghent, Belgium.1 Aileen O’Gorman of the University of the West of Scotland, Glasgow, United Kingdom, gave a paper at the conference based on a study of licit and illicit drug use patterns in the Finglas–Cabra local drugs task force area undertaken in the second half of 2012.2 The conference paper was titled ‘Changing drug trends: static drug policies’. The abstract of O’Gorman’s paper is reproduced below.3 (Citations included in the abstract have been deleted as full publication details were not provided.)



Since the 1990s, patterns and trends in drug consumption have evolved in response to global and local shifts in drug production and supply, and in response to fluctuating levels of demand influenced by accessibility, price, quality, and cultural appeal. The consumption of a combination of licit and illicit substances has become a regular feature of weekend and festive socialising among young people. ‘Illegal leisure’ had become normalised and accommodated into the social and cultural practices of different social groups [citations deleted], albeit on a differentiated basis [citations deleted]. Nonetheless, internationally, drug policy remains predominantly and intransigently prohibitionist, focused on criminalising users, curtailing supply, and preventing and treating addictions. The gap between drug policies and drug consumption practices is ever-widening.

Aims and methods

This paper draws from the findings of a recent neighbourhood study that explored drug consumption patterns, practices and meanings from the perspective of a group of young people ‘from the street’, whose public presence was often perceived as problematic and who were regarded as being ‘at risk’ through their drug use [citation deleted]. Data were collected through individual and focus groups interviews, and ethnographic observations and conversations in the drug users’ natural locations. The paper is further informed by a series of neighbourhood drug studies which began in Dublin in 1996 and have been conducted at intervals since [citations deleted]. These studies share a similar critical interpretivist methodological approach, which explored the lived experience of these drug users within a political economy framework of analysis of socio-spatial risk environments.



Patterns emerged from the drug enthusiasts’ narratives illustrating how drug consumption practices were shaped by different intentions mediated by time and space settings, and the negotiation of an intricate interplay between structure and agency. Drug intentions were a key influence on their consumption practices. These intentions ranged from ‘chillin’, ‘buzzin’ and ‘getting mangled’ to ‘coming down’, and each intention was embedded in a set of polydrug combinations that included alcohol, cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine, new psychoactive substances, and prescription tablets (mainly benzodiazepines and so called ‘Z drugs’ such as Zimovane, Zopiclone etc.).


The paper describes and analyses the users’ drug choices, intentions and risks, and situates them in the context of the role and meaning of drug use in their lives, including their participation in the drugs economy. Glimpses of rational action and cost-benefit analyses in their discourses of choice were seen to be brokered within short-term socio-temporal spaces and bounded by the broader social, cultural and policy contexts they inhabited. Drug users do not exist in isolation from their social, economic and policy contexts. The findings of this study highlight the need for integrated drug and social policies that address broader contextual structural issues and inequalities.


1 For more information on the ISSDP and its conferences, visit http://www.issdp.org/

2 O'Gorman A, Piggott K, Napier K, Driscoll A, Emerson D, Mooney R, Fennelly C, Gately P and Foley M (2013) An analysis of current licit and illicit drug use patterns in the Finglas–Cabra local drugs task force area. Dublin: Finglas/Cabra Local Drugs Task Force. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/20723/

3 The abstract was downloaded from the preliminary version of the book of ISSDP conference paper abstracts at http://www.issdp.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Conference-programme_ISSDP-2015_final_v2.0.pdf

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