Illegal drug use has almost doubled since the early 2000s, with cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine use at their highest since 2002, the latest figures show.
Young men, aged 15-24, are the group most likely to use illegal drugs, including cannabis, ecstasy, and cocaine including crack, though males aged 25-34 were the group most likely to have used cocaine powder or heroin.
The data, from the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol (NACDA), show 30.7 per cent of people aged 15-64 had, in 2014/15 used illegal drugs at some stage in their lives, compared with 18.5 per cent in 2002/03.
The most used drug is alcohol, though its consumption has fallen since 2002/03. While 90 per cent of 15-64 year-olds had had it at some stage in their lives in 2002/05, some 85.3 per cent had in 2014/15.
Almost 40 per cent (37.2 per cent) of younger people – aged 15 -34 – had used illegal drugs at some point in their lives in 2014/15, compared with 26 per cent in 2002. Among 35-64-year-olds, lifetime use of illegal drugs was 26 per cent in 2014/15, compared with 12 per cent in 2002/03.
The most widely used illegal drug remains cannabis, with 28 per cent having used it at some stage in their lives in 2014/15, compared with 17.3 per cent 14 years ago.
Ecstasy use at some stage in a person’s life has increased from 3.7 per cent in 2002/03, to 9.2 per cent, while cocaine use, including crack, has increased three per cent in 2002/03 to 7.8 per cent most recently.
These are the headline figures from the largest, regular study of its kind on the island, looking at illegal drug, and alcohol, use and gambling among adults. Some 7,005 adults over 15 were interviewed in the Republic, while 2,500 were interviewed in Northern Ireland.
Though the comparison figures focus on adults between 16-65, data for the 2014/15 study include interviews with adults over 64 for the first time, giving slightly lower rates overall, with 26.4 per cent of all over 15-year-olds having used illegal drugs at some stage. Some 24 per cent had used cannabis, 7,8 per cent used ecstasy and 6.6 per cent used cocaine, including crack, at some stage in their lives.
Measurement of drug use in the past month or year, however, is a more accurate indicator of prevalence.
Use of any illegal drug in the past month among 15 to 64 year-olds was, 4.7 per cent compared with three per cent in 2002/03, with 8.9 per cent having used some illegal drug in the past year in 2014/15 compared with 5.6 per cent in 2002/03.
The age-group most likely to have used drugs in the past month are 15-24 year-old males. The drug they favour is alcohol, with 61.2 per cent of them having had in the past month, compared with 59 per cent of females aged 15-24.
Males and females aged 15-24 are most likely to have used cannabis in the past month (9.2 per cent) or past year (16.2 per cent). This age group is also the most likely to have used ecstasy in the past month (3.3 per cent) or past year (6.7 per cent).
Broken down by gender, some 13.4 per cent of males aged 15-24 have used an illegal drug in the past month, compared with 5.8 per cent of females in this age cohort.
Some 12.7 of youngest males used cannabis in the past month, while 5.6 per cent of females had. Some four per cent of males in the 15-24 cohort used ecstasy in the past month, compared with 2.7 per cent of females.
Men in the 25-34 age group were the most likely to have used cocaine powder (1.4 per cent) or heroin (0.3 per cent) in the past month.