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Saturday 9 December 2023 Dublin: 7°C
global drug survey

Irish recreational drug users reveal cocaine and MDMA use - and talk 'mystery white powders'

Only one-fifth of those who admitted using cannabis do so for ‘medicinal purposes’.

THE LARGEST DRUG survey in the world has questioned Irish people about their use of illegal and prescription drugs.

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The Global Drug Survey does not take a cross-section of every demographic but rather looks to probe trends and attitudes among people who have had some experience using drugs or alcohol.

More than 2,000 people responded to that callout – with some 1,455 of those saying they had taken cannabis in the last year.

The most popular method – by far – was smoking a joint, followed by smoking a blunt or inhaling through a bong or pipe.

One third of users had smoked on 100 days or more of the last 12 months.


Eight in ten people said they used cannabis solely for recreational purposes, while 18.6% used mostly for medicinal purposes but also sometimes for pleasure.

Only 1.8% of those surveyed used cannabis primarily for medical reasons and 0.5% exclusively for this purpose.

Almost all (98.5%) people who bought cannabis said they had never been exposed to violence when buying the drug.

Just 0.4% of people surveyed had sought emergency medical treatment after smoking cannabis – lower than the global average of 1%.

cannabis emergency

Those who did seek help were most likely to present with symptoms such as anxiety, paranoia and breathing difficulties.

The Global Drug Survey questioned 102,000 people from over 50 countries about their alcohol and drug use, making it the largest annual drug and alcohol survey in the world.

About 2,300 people were interviewed from Ireland, split almost evenly between men and women.

‘Mystery White Powders’

In this regard, 11.9% of the Irish people surveyed said they had taken a ’mystery white powder’ in the last 12 months.

powders ireland


Of those surveyed, about 920 had taken MDMA (also known as Ecstasy or Molly) in the last year.

mdma ireland

Some 95% of those who bought the drug said they hadn’t been exposed to violence when doing so.

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In Ireland, the average amount of MDMA taken per session is 0.37 grammes, or two pills – slightly more than most other countries.

mdma per session

The average cost is €8 per pill and €60 per gramme.

mdma global v ireland cost

Some 1.4% of those in Ireland who took MDMA in the last year sought medical treatment afterwards, compared to 0.9% globally.

mdma emergency


About 600 people questioned said they had taken cocaine in the last year.

cocaine better

Some 96.5% of these people snorted it, 2.8% swallowed it, 0.5% smoked it and 0.2% injected it.

Most people used half a gramme or less in a ‘typical session’.

cocaine grams

The average cost of a gramme of ‘normal’ cocaine is €81.99, increasing to €100.95 per gramme for ‘luxury’ cocaine. This is higher than the average cost internationally.

cocaine price

Of those who said they used illicit drugs globally, about 5,150 people said they had taken drugs bought on the ‘dark net’ using website similar to the now-defunct Silk Road.

Some 7.4% of the Irish people surveyed had bought drugs online – via both the dark and open net.

A further 3.3% of the Irish people questioned had taken legal highs, compared to 31% of respondents from Poland and 8.6% in the UK.

Prescription drugs

In terms of prescription drugs, about 30% of Irish respondents said they used them in the last 12 months, compared to 14% globally.

prescriptions ireland

All graphs: Global Drug Survey

More from the survey:

Ireland has the highest percentage of people who need medical help after drinking too much

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