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drugs in college

Cocaine now the second-most common drug used by third-level students, new report shows

Cannabis remains the most common drug, but cocaine displaced ecstasy to take the second place spot.

COCAINE HAS REPLACED ecstasy as the second-most common drug used by students at third-level, says a new report by University College Cork (UCC).

The Drug Use in Higher Education Institutions survey found that while cannabis remains the most common drug at third level, cocaine use has risen in recent years.

Over half of students who responded to the survey said that they had used an illicit drug, with over one-third reporting drug use within the last year. One-fifth reported drug use within the last month.

The most common drug at third level is cannabis, with 52% of respondents saying that they have used it before, with cocaine and ecstasy at 25% and 23% respectively.

Other drugs, like ketamine (16%), mushrooms (12%), amphetamines (9%) and psychoactive substances (8%) are used less frequently. 

For most of these drugs, the first use by students was when they were between 18 and 21 years old, whereas for cannabis it was between 16 and 18 years old.

Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said the new report would be an important tool to help the Department of Higher Education develop responses to drug use in third level institutions.

“It helps understand the prevalence of drug use and the range of drugs being used by our students as well as detailing the impacts and effects, including harms caused by drug use in our student population,” said Harris.

This data is vital to map the extent of the issue and will help us to develop appropriate responses and monitor trends in drug use in higher education over the coming years.

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) Vice President for Welfare, Somhairle Brennan, said that the report shows that drug use has become normalised within student life, and that targeted supports are needed.

“The findings of this report show how normalised drug culture has become in the student community, and therefore highlights the need for tailored supports directed specifically at students who use drugs,” said Brennan.

“USI strongly supports the inclusion of drug harm reduction strategies and believes this should be an integral part of the supports provided.”

Recommendations from the report include asking higher education institutions (HEI)  to develop a drug and alcohol action plan that is specific to their students, as well as seeking support and expertise from the HSE on drug and alcohol action.

Over 11,500 third level students responded to the survey across 21 public HEIs.

Additional findings

Of the students surveyed, over half said that they believed that drug use was a normal part of student life.

However, over half also reported that they thought drug use had a somewhat negative or extremely negative impact on student life.

Drug use is more common in male students than female students, with one in four males reporting drug use compared to one in six in females.

The report also details how the use of drugs rises year-on-year while students are in college. This drug use then peaks during the student’s final two years in college.

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