Final year college students are more likely to be using drugs than their younger peers, the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs has heard.
The fifth Citizens’ Assembly met today in Malahide to discuss drug prevention strategies and practices.
University College Cork Dr Michael Byrne told the Assembly 54.7% of students surveyed have used a drug at least once.
The Drug Use in Higher Education Ireland Survey, conducted by Dr Byrne and other UCC staff in 2021 showed that cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy and ketamine are the most common drugs used among students.
“Drug use increases from year of entry through first year and second year to peak in third and fourth year, which is contrary to other data that suggests drug use falls off in third and fourth year,” he said.
One in six first years tried drugs in the last year, compared to one in five second years and one in four third and final years.
We commence the final session of today’s programme at #CADrugsUse considering further perspectives on prevention. We begin by hearing from Fr. Peter McVerry looking at prevention with vulnerable groups. pic.twitter.com/VvNBSmXPFN
— The Citizens' Assembly (@CitizAssembly) September 30, 2023
The study also found cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy and ketamine are the most common drugs used among students.
“Cocaine has displaced ecstasy from being the second most prevalent drug,” Dr Byrne said.
Father Peter McVerry also spoke at the Assembly today and said the best method of drug prevention is lifting people out of deprivation.
“It is drug misusers from deprived areas who fill our prison and cause most concern to society,” he said.
“The temptation to use drugs is often stronger in deprived areas as such areas will have a higher rate of unemployment, school dropouts.”
'Coordination between relevant services'
Fr McVerry said those coming out of addiction treatment may still face other issues such as homelessness.
“For example, if you’re homeless, and come out of treatment drug free but still homeless, and you're looking for a bed for the night, you’ll probably end up in a hostel full of drugs,” he said.
“You may even be sharing a room with two or three people using drugs.”
He said a “coordination between relevant services” is necessary to prevent drug abuse in Ireland.
“That’s drug treatment services, accommodation provider, training or employment services, social welfare services and mental health services,” he said.
The Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs will meet again tomorrow to continue discussing drug abuse prevention.