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Comiskey, Catherine and Miller, RTH (2000) Young people, drug use and early school leaving. (Unpublished)

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The aim of this report was to examine the nature and extent of drug use among young people in Dublin and its effects on the decision to leave school early.

An important aspect of this objective was the estimation of the hidden numbers of young people using drugs. This estimation was carried using the capture recapture technique applied to data on hospital admissions, police records and methadone treatment from 1996, and to the same data sources (excluding police records) for 1997. Raw data for 1996 reported a minimum of 1528 young people aged between 10 and 20 years using opiates, of whom 577 were identified as problematic users. The 3 sample capture recapture method provided as estimate of 4081 young people using opiates in 1996.

The 2 sample method estimated 1141 problematic users. The comparable figures for 1997 were: 722 problematic users from the raw data alone; and, 1315 problematic users from the 2 sample method. The nature of the use of other drugs was examined by conducting a survey, in late 1999, amongst 112 early school leavers aged 14 to 23 years who had decided to return to education. 51.1% of those surveyed had used drugs before leaving school, 46.5% of whom noted that their drug use affected them at least sometimes while they attended school. Two respondents said drug use had a definite effect on their decision to leave school early. Questions on current drug use showed that 47.3% were using cannabis on a daily basis, and that 16.5% were using ecstasy on a weekly basis. Two individuals (2.2. %) were using heroin/opiates or methadone on a daily basis.

The authors note that the methodology used is subject to certain limitations including the modest number responding to the survey, and the inability to measure the extent to which the assumptions of the capture recapture method are upheld.

The number of students who identified drug use as a factor in their decision to leave school early, coupled with the known minimum prevalence of 1,528 young people of school going age using heroin/opiates indicates the scale of the problem and the necessity for further research and clarification on the true relationship between drug use, young people and early school leaving.

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