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Chief Medical Officer Breda Smyth PA

Chief Medical Officer says level of cannabis use in Ireland is ‘of great concern’

The Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use is meeting to consider a broad range of perspectives on prevention.

LAST UPDATE | 30 Sep 2023

THE USE OF cannabis in Ireland is “of great concern”, the Chief Medical Officer has expressed to the Citizens’ Assembly on Drug Use.

Professor Breda Smyth said one in five adult cannabis users are likely to be dependent on the drug while one in three young persons are likely to become addicted if they use it at least once a week.

Speaking to the fifth meeting of the citizens’ assembly, she said: “The strength of cannabis, or its potency, has increased by 57% in the 10 years from 2011-2021.”

She said the profile of cannabis use has also changed with people using the drug more frequently, often daily.

“Cannabis can cause addiction,” she said. “We have 45,000 people with cannabis-use disorders in the latest data.”

Under-18s account for 80% of new presentations to cannabis addiction treatment services.

Professor Smyth also warned of the hidden harm to children living with parental problem drug use.

In her address, the chief medical officer said drug use is “a significant public health problem in Ireland”.

She said there were 409 drug-induced deaths in 2020, adding that drug-related hospitalisations account for approximately 53,000 inpatient bed days each year.

Professor Smyth said that there had also been a steady increase in admissions to psychiatric services associated with drug-related causes.

“We know that the profile of drug users in Ireland has changed significantly over the last 30 years.

“Drug use can affect us all, from all social classes across every county in Ireland but it affects those more severely in deprived areas.”

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