Drug crime rises in Dublin amid surge in consumption

New research suggests more people than ever in Ireland are taking illegal drugs

Drug crime has continued to rise in Dublin, as evidence also emerges that more people than ever across the country are consuming illicit drugs.

In just over a decade, the number of people in Ireland who have taken drugs at least once has surged by 50 per cent.

More people in Ireland now seek treatment for cannabis use than for any other drug type. Cannabis is linked to 41 per cent of all new cases presenting for drug treatment in the Republic.

Assistant Garda Commissioner Pat Leahy has set out the latest trends for Dublin on the issue, saying drug crime in the capital increased by 11 per cent in the first eight months of the year. At the same time, the number of drug searches in the Dublin region, at 23,161, was 9 per cent lower compared with the same period last year.


It means the rising number of drug crimes, including possessing drugs to sell or for personal use, cannot be attributed to greater levels of enforcement. Mr Leahy, who leads policing in Dublin, warned earlier this year that some offending associated with the night-time economy was rising as the wider economy recovered.

And the latest data shows this is the case for drug consumption, with public order crimes down by 3 per cent.

The latest Dublin crime data, up to August 31st, has been prepared by Mr Leahy for Dublin City Council’s policing forum.

News that drug crime is rising in the capital this year follows an increase of 5 per cent for the whole country last year.

High consumption

The most up-to-date longer- term drug trends also reveal the Republic has one of the highest rates of drug consumption per capita in Europe.

New research published by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction offers a snapshot of drug use in Ireland in the European context.

In 2002-2003 some 20 per cent of Irish people questioned in research studies reported using illegal drugs at least once in their lives. When the same question was put 12 years later, that figure had grown to 30 per cent, according to the monitoring centre’s research.

That’s an increase of 50 per cent in the size of the group saying they had taken drugs at least once. The study questioned Irish people between the ages of 15 and 64 years.

Cannabis was by far the most popular drug in Ireland. Some 28 per cent of people between 15 and 64 years said they had tried it. And 14 per cent of those in the 15-34 age range reported using cannabis in the previous 12 months.

Cannabis consumption was a serious issue in many of the 28 European countries studied. In five other countries more people had consumed cannabis at least once than in Ireland; France was the highest, on 41 per cent of the population.

Problem heroin use was more common in the Republic than in all but one of the other 28 European countries surveyed. The State had about “six or seven” problem heroin cases per 1,000 population, exceeded only by the UK, with 7.9 to 8.4 cases per 1,000 population.

Research on cocaine use showed 2.9 per cent of people in Ireland in the 15-34 age group reported using the drug at some point in the past year. That figure was the same as in 2010-2011. However, the Irish were again among the greatest users of cocaine in Europe, behind only Denmark, Spain, the Netherlands and the UK.

Some 4.1 per cent of people in Ireland had tried amphetamines, the fourth highest such figure in Europe.

And 9.2 per cent of people in Ireland had tried MDMA, or ecstasy, at least once. This was the joint highest rate in Europe, equal with the Netherlands, and more than twice the European average of 4.1 per cent.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times