This from The Irish Examiner:
Teen drug use ‘higher than US levels’
27th May 2008
Irish teenagers have passed out their US counterparts in illegal drug use, according to a new report.
Levels of illegal drug use are now far greater than the European average and even higher than the last study of Irish teenagers.
The findings are contained in new research on 15 to 19-year-olds in the south and south-east of the country. The research was conducted by the school of psychology in UCD and HSE South.
“The findings regarding alcohol use are consistent with previous research, but the findings on drug use are higher,” said Dr Gary O’Reilly of the school of psychology.
“Previous research showed Irish teenagers lagged behind the US. They’ve actually caught them up, if not passed them out.”
The research, conducted with Dr Deirdre Palmer of the HSE, found 50% of young people had taken a drug at some stage in their lives (lifetime prevalence.
This compared with 40% of American teenagers. The last research on Irish teenagers (the European ESPAD study in 2003) put the Irish rate at 40%.
The report said the ESPAD and US surveys were of the 15-16 age group and that the older age-spread of their research may be an important factor in the higher rate.
The report said the lifetime use of cannabis was twice the European average, the lifetime use of inhalants and hallucinogens three times the European average, while the lifetime use of cocaine and amphetamine was five times the European average.
The report stressed there were different levels of illegal drug usage, from experimental, to regular, to problem usage. While the lifetime prevalence of cannabis was 41%, regular, or monthly, usage was 14%, while weekly usage or more was 7%. For cocaine, lifetime usage was 11%, but monthly usage was just 1%, while almost no one used it weekly. Dr O’Reilly said while the 1% was a cause of concern for the people concerned, the “substances of real concern” were high alcohol usage and high cannabis use.
“Some 14% are regular users of cannabis, that’s a high level of usage, given the concern over heavy cannabis use and mental health.” He accepted “part of growing up” was about experimenting, but said young people needed to be educated to drink responsibly and understand the effects of drugs like cannabis. He said of the 460 students surveyed, some 10% were “high-end” substance users and that their usage looked very similar to those in residential treatment for alcohol and drugs. He said a further 8% were using drugs regularly.
He said the factors “fuelling the shift” from experimental to problem usage included family difficulties, life difficulties and coping abilities, the pleasure from substances and the neighbourhoods the teenagers grew up in.
The research was published at an international conference entitled Alcohol and Drug Use in Young People, at UCD yesterday.
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