Illegal drug use so common in Dublin, it is seen as ‘norm’ – study

Drug dealing seen as lucrative option by young people in insecure job market says report

Illegal drug use has become so common in Dublin that it is regarded as normal and not just the preserve of addicts, a new report states.

The study done by Dr Matt Bowden from the Technical University Dublin for Citywide Drugs Crisis Campaign found young drug users keep their distance from older heroin addicts and regard heroin as a "dirty drug".

“There appears to be a need amongst younger drug users, to create a distance between the drug use of the previous and current generation,” the study concludes.

Interviews were conducted with seven activists involved in drug treatment and prevention.


It quotes one youth worker, Noel, who believes drug use is now the preserve of “ordinary people” who would not normally be expected to be associated with such drug use.

“There’s just a bigger selection of drugs available here, is the big difference right now, I would say,” he said.

“ It’s just a broader menu of things, of drugs ... Maybe it’s because the weed is around, and hash is around and cocaine is around. All the benzos are around and they’re in big supply around here.”

Peer-to-peer selling

These findings are contained in a new research report, The Drug Economy and Youth Interventions: An Exploratory Research Project on Working with Young People involved in the Illegal Drugs Trade.

Dr Bowdens said the study identified the imperative need for young people to be given opportunities that take them away from drug markets, distribution and consumption.

He said: “The current polydrug markets are providing an alternative stream of income and occupation that appear meaningful for young people, and our research participants all stressed the need to create opportunities and pathways to enable young people to make the transitions to both education and labour-market participation, with the chance to earn a decent living.

“They also stressed that the young people involved in the drugs trade are neither out of control nor untouchable and that as a society it is worth investing in them and including them.”

The research will be unveiled at a seminar organised on Tuesday by Citywide to be held in St Andrew's Community Centre, Rialto, Dublin 8.

The report says the often precarious nature of work for young people, the so-called gig economy, makes being involved in drug-dealing a more lucrative way of making a living.

“The labour deal involves hard work, saving, deferred gratification, years of preparation to acquire qualifications and training, competitive labour markets and all without guarantees of stable employment,” one participant in the study said.

“For our participants, young people are faced with the choice between diminishing opportunities, zero-hours contracts: whereas drug selling and related work offers immediate access to the prizes of the consumer society.”

Citywide co-ordinator Anna Quigley said the notion of the big drug dealer in a community is outdated and young people are more likely to be involved in peer-to-peer drug selling.

She said young people need to be educated on drug debts and that “day-to-day supply through friendship connections is not a gift, it’s an economic bond”.

She added: “The research highlights the need for drug awareness and prevention work to include education on how debt and credit work in the drugs economy. Threats and physical violence are the means used to recoup debts and systemic intimidation is a critical experience for young people and their communities as captured in the interviews.”

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times