Cannabis most common substance used in new cases of problematic drug use

The proportion of cases reporting problem use of opiates has steadily decreased since 2010

Cannabis was the most common substance recorded in new cases of treated problem drug use in Ireland: Photograph:  THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images

Cannabis was the most common substance recorded in new cases of treated problem drug use in Ireland: Photograph: THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images

 

Cannabis was the most common substance recorded in new cases of treated problem drug use in Ireland year-on-year from 2011 to 2016, according to figures released by the Health Research Board (HRB) on Tuesday.

The report, ‘Drug Treatment in Ireland’, looked at 63,187 cases of treated problematic drug use, excluding alcohol, recorded by the National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS) between 2010 and 2016.

Each case recorded by the NDTRS refers to a single “treatment episode” rather than an individual, as “the same individual could be recorded more than once in the calendar year”, according to the HRB.

Opiates were the most commonly reported “main problem drug” year-on-year, accounting for 47 per cent of all cases in 2016 and 60.1 per cent of all previously treated cases in the same year.

However, the proportion of cases reporting problem use of opiates has steadily decreased since 2010, when opiate use was attributed to 58.1 per cent of all cases.

Cannabis was the second most commonly reported substance behind opiates year on year, being attributed to 26.4 per cent of all cases recorded in 2016.

Cocaine was the third most common substance reported in 2016, being attributed to 12.3 per cent of cases.

The HRB also reported a proportional increase in the overall number of cases reporting benzodiazepines as a main problem drug, from 4.1 per cent in 2010 to 9.7 per cent in 2016.

The proportion of cases reporting problematic use of Z drugs, drugs used to treat insomnia with effects similar to benzodiazepines, decreased from 1.6 per cent in 2015 to 1.1 per cent in 2016.

The problematic use of novel psychoactive substances (NPS) decreased from 2.5 percent of all cases in 2010 to 0.8 per cent in 2016.

Report details

The total number of cases decreased by 6.7 per cent from 2015 (9892) to 2016 (9227), with a 5.8 per cent reduction in new cases and an 8.9 per cent decrease in previously treated cases during the same time period.

However, the NDTRS transitioned to online reporting of cases during the 2016 period. Although trends for 2016 remained consistent with those reported from 2010 to 2015, “this transition may have contributed to the reduction in the number of cases reported to the NDTRS for 2016”, according to the report.

“The figures show a decrease in the proportion of new cases, or people presenting for treatment for the first time. However there has been an increase in the proportion of previously treated cases, or people returning for treatment, indicating the chronic, relapsing nature of addiction” said Dr Suzi Lyons, Senior Researcher at the HRB.

Over 70 per cent of all cases were males. The median age range of cases increased from 28 in 2010 to 30 in 2016. Overall, 11.1 per cent of cases reported they were employed in 2016, with 66.2 per cent of cases reporting they were unemployed during the same time period.

Polydrug use

Over 62 per cent of all cases recorded by the NDTRS reported the use of more than one drug, or “polydrug use”.

Benzodiazepines were the most commonly reported “additional problem drug”, recorded in 36.9 per cent of all cases in 2016.

This was closely followed by alcohol (34.1 per cent), cannabis (32.9 per cent), cocaine (25.9 per cent) and opiates (21.4 per cent) as the most commonly reported additional problem drugs in 2016.