The Minster for Social and Family Affairs said today she had grave concerns following a study showing children as young as 12 years of age are abusing drugs.
The study focused on 86 young people who were assessed at a drug treatment centre in Dublin.
Most were found to have left school at an early age and only one teenager had completed secondary education.
Mary Hanafin said this afternoon that early intervention and education were essential in combating drug use among young people.
"It's been a priority for government to ensure that at a very early age young children get the education that they need to make them feel responsible for their own lives."
"All parents need also to be particularly alert for anything that might be different or unusual about their children," the minister said.