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Dublin: 12 °C Tuesday 23 April, 2019
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Prescription drug usage on the rise among women

A survey on drug consumption in Ireland has noted a “huge increase” in the usage of legally available opiates – particularly among women – prompting a call for the examination of how benzodiazepines are prescribed.

Image: Melanie Tata via Creative Commons/Flickr

THE HSE HAS been asked to investigate prescription practises for certain medications after a national study showed a “huge increase” in the usage of legally available opiates.

Women and people aged between 25 – 34 are most likely to consume such drugs, according to a recent survey by the National Advisory Committee of Drugs.

The survey noted a marked increase in the number of people who used substances classed under the broad category “other opiates”; these drugs range from painkillers – such as codeine – to anti-anxiety medication, tranquilisers and sedatives.

In response to the survey, the Minister of State for Primary Care Róisín Shorthall asked the HSE to examine how benzodiazepines are prescribed – with the substance being an active ingredient in products like Valium, Xanax, Sobril, Xanor and Mogadon.

Shorthall said the rise in usage was a reason for concern, and noted that such drugs can be sourced either from within the country or bought over the internet. As such, the substances are open to abuse as they can be obtained illegally or used without professional supervision.

Illegal drugs

In contrast, levels of illegal drug use in Ireland over the past four years has been shown to be relatively stable.

The survey noted drug usage patterns in the 15 – 64 age group in the Republic and Northern Ireland between October 2010 and May 2011. The findings were then compared with a survey from the same period four years ago.

The NACD report showed that men and those aged between 15 – 24 are the most likely to use illegal drugs, and found no indication of the gender gap narrowing.

Chairperson of the NACD, Dr Des Corrigan, said it was “significant” that the level of recent and current drug use has been mainly stable between 2006 – 2007 and 2010 – 2011 for all illegal drugs. The psychoactive substances identified in the survey included cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine, LSD, poppers, magic mushrooms, solvents, amphetamines, methadone and heroin.

The overall prevalence rate for the use of any illegal drug last year was 7 per cent, compared to 7.2 per cent in 2006 – 200.

Breakdown of illegal drug use

Cannabis continues to be the most commonly used illegal drug, with 25 per cent of respondents saying they had used it at some point in their lives. Of those, 6 per cent had used cannabis in the last year and 3 per cent reported using it in the last month.

The life time prevalence rate (the cumulative measure of the total number of people who have ever tried a drug) for all other illegal drugs was considerably lower than cannabis:

  • Cocaine, ecstasy, magic mushrooms – 7 per cent (each)
  • Amphetamines – 5 per cent
  • LSD, poppers – 4 per cent (each)
  • Heroin – 0.8 per cent
  • Crack – 0.6 per cent
  • Methadone – 0.5 per cent

Joan O’Flynn, Director of NACD said the new survey findings suggest that there is a “continuing need for preventative measures under the National Drugs Strategy that focus on young people, particularly young men, their families and communities and that take account of the gendered nature of substance use.”

Read the full NACD report>

Read: €19bn worth of Irish drug exports at risk as drug patents expire>

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