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Irish youths top EU table for use of ‘legal high’ drugs

A Eurobarometer survey reveals that 16 per cent of young Irish people have taken synthetic drugs, the highest in the EU.

Head shops have been outlawed in Ireland, but Ireland youth's are still more likely to have taken 'legal high' drugs than those of any other EU country.
Head shops have been outlawed in Ireland, but Ireland youth's are still more likely to have taken 'legal high' drugs than those of any other EU country.
Image: Niall Carson/PA Archive

IRISH TEENAGERS ARE more likely to take ‘legal high’ drugs than any others in the European Union, a new pan-continental survey has revealed.

The European Commission’s Eurobarometer poll to youth attitudes on drugs showed that 16 per cent of people aged between 15 and 24 – or one in six people between those ages – had taken legal substances imitating the effects of illicit drugs.

That number was almost twice as high as the rate in Poland and Latvia, the two countries with the next highest use of legal highs (9 per cent), and over three times higher than the EU average of 5 per cent.

The majority of younger people said they had taken the drugs after being offered them by a friend at a party or in a club, while across Europe young adults were more likely to get the drugs in head shops, which have been outlawed in Ireland.

In general, Europe’s young people said it was more difficult to obtain illegal drugs like ecstasy, heroin, cocaine and cannabis than it was in 2008 when a similar study was undertaken.

Access to heroin is easier in Ireland than in all but four other countries, with 17 per cent of young people saying it was either ‘very easy’ or ‘fairly easy’ to access the drug – though 21 per cent said it was ‘impossible’ to get it.

Cocaine was also easier to find in Ireland than in most countries, with 30 per cent saying it was easy to come by, while 32 per cent said it was easy to get access to ecstasy.

Two-thirds of Irish respondents – 67 per cent – said it was either ‘very easy’ or ‘fairly easy’ to get access to cannabis within 24 hours, while only 21 per cent found it either ‘very difficult’ or ‘impossible’.

Despite Ireland’s reputation as being a country of heavy drinkers, Ireland’s ease of access to alcohol matched the European average with 82 per cent describing it as ‘very easy’ to gain access to alcoholic drinks if they wanted them.

Access to tobacco was just below the EU average, with 80 per cent saying it was ‘very easy’ to obtain tobacco compared to the EU average of 81 per cent.

The Eurobarometer poll was carried out by Gallup in May of this year, and interviewed 12,000 randomly selected young people across the 27 European Union member states.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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