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Young adults in Ireland are taking more MDMA and cannabis than they used to

The latest European Drug Report has been released today.

Image: Shutterstock/DisobeyArt

YOUNG ADULTS IN Ireland are taking MDMA and cannabis significantly more in recent years than they used to, while use of other illegal drugs has dropped.

The latest European Drug Report 2018: Trends and Developments also finds that Ireland has the second highest rate of use of opioids per population.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) report looks at trends in drugs use, supply, prevention, enforcement and healthcare solutions across 30 European countries.

In general, the reports finds that in Europe drug availability is high and in some areas appears to be increasing.

Latest figures show that over one million seizures of illicit drugs were reported in 2016 across the EU.

Over 92 million adults in the EU have tried an illicit drug in their lifetimes while an estimated 1.3 million people received treatment for illicit drug use in 2016.

In Ireland, trends show that the use of certain drugs is increasing – particularly among young adults.

In 2015, just under 14% of young adults (age 15-34) reported using cannabis in the last year, compared to about 10% in 2007.

Meanwhile, use of MDMA (also known as ecstasy) has jumped significantly in recent years.

A total of 4.4% of young adults reported using the drug in the last year, compared to 2.6% in 2007. Ireland ranks second in Europe in rate of use of MDMA (behind the Netherlands).

Reported use of cocaine has decreased slightly, while use of amphetamine has also dropped.

High-risk use and offences

Ireland’s rate of high-risk opioid use is also the second highest in Europe, behind the UK.

In Ireland, figures show there are about 19,000 high-risk opioid users. Latest figures for 2015 show that there were 224 deaths from overdose in Ireland.

The drug-induced mortality rate in Ireland was 70 deaths per million in 2015 – over three times the European average and one of the highest on the continent.

Ireland last year launched its new drug strategy, called ‘Reducing harm, supporting recovery: a health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017- 2025′.

This is the first strategy that moves towards an integrated approach to illicit drug and alcohol use – aiming to focus on health rather than justice as means of reducing drug use and harm.

A public consultation was launched last week looking for views on whether drugs should be decriminalised.

In 2016, there were 16,119 drug offences committed in Ireland. A total of 11,486 of these related to possession while just 3,982 had to do with supply.

Tony Duffin of the Dublin-based Ana Liffey Drug Project said that the EMCDDA report showed that for a small country “Ireland continues to have significant issues with drug use”.

“We are criminalising large numbers of people every year, but the evidence from around the world shows that doing so does not significantly reduce the numbers of people who use drugs, but does act as a barrier to support, care and future opportunities.

It is widely acknowledged that drug use is a health issue and not a criminal justice issue – it is one that requires a health based response.

He said the Ana Liffey organisation supports the planned health-led approach to drugs. “Criminalising people who use drugs is stigmatising and unnecessary – we need to respond to possession with health interventions, not criminal sanctions.”

CEO of Merchants Quay Ireland Tony Geoghegan said the high rate of overdose deaths in Ireland was an “awful indictment on society”.

This is an awful indictment of society that so many lives are being lost needlessly. We urgently need the government to increase investment in vital services targeted at high-risk drug users.

Treatment

The report shows that heroin is the most common drug that users seek help for when entering treatment.

For first time-entrants, cannabis was the main drug users sought help for when entering treatment.

The number of people entering treatment for help with cocaine use has also increased.

In 2016, 2,381 people sought treatment for cannabis use; while 3,560 people sought treatment for heroin use.

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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