Irish students as likely to try drugs as tobacco

As many students have tried an illegal drug as have tried smoking, according to a study to be launched today.

The National Student Drug survey shows 82% of respondents have taken illegal drugs at some stage in their lives — the same figure as those that have smoked at least once.

The anonymous online survey, carried out between October and December last year and which received 2,700 responses, also found that 92% of students have tasted alcohol at least once.

The Irish Examiner reported some of the initial findings earlier this year, including that nearly half of third-level students have recently smoked cannabis and almost a third have recently taken ecstasy.

The study, led by drugs researcher Tim Bingham and psychologist Colin O’Driscoll, found that among those use drugs, just 5% did so due to social or peer pressure, while 27% said they took drugs for ‘fun’. Another 19% cited curiosity as the reason for taking drugs, while 13% said drugs helped them to ‘switch off’.

Fewer than 15% of respondents said they took drugs alone, but 36% said they did so with friends and 34% said they did so at parties. There were a number of different ‘precautions’ taken by respondents, with 15% claiming they would tell a sober friend they were taking drugs, while 23% said they would ask friends about drugs. Others researched a drug online or avoided other drugs for a few hours.

Ecstasy tablets

Students are also more likely to access illegal drugs through friends rather than through a dealer, with the survey showing 48% usually got them from friends versus 32% who used a dealer. A much smaller percentage, less than 5%, used the Dark Net (illicit internet sites), but 18% of respondents who have used illegal drugs reported purchasing from the internet. Some 8% of respondents said they had bought illegal drugs from the internet and 10% said a friend had bought drugs for them online.

Mr Bingham said the percentage of student drug users who buy drugs on the Dark Net may now be higher, citing the 12% of respondents who said they had suffered intimidation or violence while buying drugs.

“I could foresee these Dark Net sites becoming more popular among this cohort of people,” he said. “At the moment, it is easy enough to get stuff through the post.”

He said one view was that buying drugs on the Dark Net could make the transaction safer, as vendors are rated, much like on regular retail sites. However, the perceived reduced risk of buying online could encourage more younger people to access drugs via the net.

“There is a generation of people out there who are able to understand TOR browsers and I think it is becoming more acceptable,” he said.

More than a third of people that have ever used illegal drugs have ever sold illegal drugs and 94% of respondents who have ever used illegal drugs have shared illegal drugs, with 65% claiming that they had shared illegal drugs on 10 or more occasions.

More respondents first tried alcohol or cigarettes at age 15 than at any other age, while, of those who have tried illegal drugs, 19% said they first did so when they were 16. More than a third of respondents binge drink each week, while those who do not take drugs cite health as the main reason for refraining.

The report launch will be attended by minister of state with responsibility for drugs strategy, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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