Six-fold increase in cocaine use among young women

Survey shows number of ‘ex-smokers’ bigger than ‘current smokers’ for the first time ever

Cocaine  use was up almost six-fold in women aged 15 to 24 years; with some 4.5 per cent now reporting recent cocaine use, up from 0.5 per cent five years ago.  Photograph: iStock

Cocaine use was up almost six-fold in women aged 15 to 24 years; with some 4.5 per cent now reporting recent cocaine use, up from 0.5 per cent five years ago. Photograph: iStock

 

The consumption of illegal stimulants such as cocaine and ecstasy has increased very significantly in the Republic over the last five years, with a near six-fold increase in the number of younger women using cocaine.

The Irish National Drug and Alcohol Survey, due to be published today by the Health Research Board, also shows the number of “ex smokers” is bigger than the number of “current smokers” for the first time ever. However, some of those who have quit cigarettes have moved to vaping.

While more people were now abstaining from alcohol, a significant number of those who drink did so in binges or in a harmful fashion, the research shows.

In the survey of almost 6,000 adults in the Republic there was widespread support, at 90 per cent of respondents, for cannabis use for medical purposes. Fewer than 30 per cent of respondents supported recreational use of the drug.

Dr Deirdre Mongan of the Health Research Board, and lead author of the report, said some of the patterns around illicit drug use were of particular concern. However, drug consumption overall had reached a plateau in the 2019-20 survey results when compared to five years ago.

“What is notable is the rise in the use of illegal stimulants, particularly cocaine and amphetamines. Also, people who use drugs are now more likely than before to use a wider range of drugs,” she said.

Illicit drugs

More than twice as many men as women, 12.3 per cent compared to 5.7 per cent, had used illicit drugs in the past year, and that was up to almost one in five people in the 15-24 years age group.

Cocaine use by females has more than doubled in the past five years; with some 1.1 per cent of women reporting recent use of the drug. Cocaine use was up almost six-fold in women aged 15 to 24 years; with some 4.5 per cent now reporting recent cocaine use, up from 0.5 per cent five years ago. Almost 10 per cent of men aged 23 to 34 years were now reporting recent cocaine use, up from less than 2 per cent in 2002-03.

Use of ecstasy has grown more than five-fold over the past decade; 0.5 per cent of people reporting recent use in 2010-11 compared with 2.7 per cent of people reporting recent use in the new survey. In the 25-34 years age group, 9.7 per cent of people reported recent use, compared to just over 2 per cent in 2002-03.

There was a drop in the number of men reporting recent cannabis use; 9.9 per cent of men at present compared to 11.2 per cent of men five years ago. However, cannabis use was very marginally up among women; 4.4 per cent of women now reporting recent use compared to 4.3 per cent last year. Herbal cannabis is by far the most popular product, with 80 per cent of users preferring it.

Vaped

Just over 17 per cent of people said they currently smoked tobacco while almost 26 per cent were ex-smokers. Just over 4 per cent of people said they vaped, or smoked e-cigarettes.

In more deprived areas more than 28 per cent of adults smoked, compared to 10 per cent in the least deprived cohort of respondents. Rates of recent drug use were almost identical, at just under 9 per cent of respondents, in the most and least deprived areas.

In the 2002-03 survey, smokers said they first tried cigarettes aged 14.6 years, though this has now increased to 16.4 years. The number of people who said they have “never smoked” increased from 40 per cent in 2002-03 to almost 58 per cent at present.

In relation to alcohol consumption, the main indicators reveal the number of people drinking has continued to decline in the past five years, extending a long-term trend. Almost 78 per cent described themselves as a “current drinker”, down from 80 per cent in 2014-15 and 84 per cent in 2002-03.

Binge drinking

The number of people who said there were “never” a drinker was now at 17 per cent, up from 14.8 per cent in 2014-15 and 10 per cent in 2002-03. Those who reported using alcohol were, on average, aged 16.6 years when they first started, exactly one year older than reported in 2002-03.

Overall, 40 per cent of drinkers engaged in a binge in the year prior to the survey and 24 per cent engaged in a binge on a weekly basis, with young people much more like to binge drink. Just over 51 per cent of all drinkers were classified as “hazardous drinkers” under the World Health Organisation definition based on drinking frequency, unit consumption, ability to stop and ability to perform planned tasks after drinking.

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