Cannabis use in Ireland is ‘of great concern’, chief medical officer warns

Prof Breda Smyth says one in five adult users are likely to be dependent on the drug

The use of cannabis in Ireland is “of great concern”, the chief medical officer has warned.

Prof Breda Smyth said one in five adult cannabis users are likely to be dependent on the drug while one in three young people are likely to become addicted if they use it at least once a week.

Speaking to the fifth meeting of the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use, she added: “The strength of cannabis, or its potency, has increased by 57 per cent in the 10 years from 2011 to 2021.”

She said the profile of cannabis use has also changed with people using the drug more frequently, often daily.


“Cannabis can cause addiction,” she said.

“We have 45,000 people with cannabis-use disorders in the latest data.”

Under-18s account for 80 per cent of new presentations to cannabis addiction treatment services.

Prof Smyth also warned of the hidden harm to children living with parental problem drug use.

In her address, the chief medical officer said drug use is “a significant public health problem in Ireland”.

She said there were 409 drug-induced deaths in 2020, adding that drug-related hospitalisations account for about 53,000 inpatient bed days each year.

Prof Smyth said that there had also been a steady increase in admissions to psychiatric services associated with drug-related causes.

“We know that the profile of drug users in Ireland has changed significantly over the last 30 years.

“Drug use can affect us all, from all social classes across every county in Ireland but it affects those more severely in deprived areas.” – PA