Gardaí are appealing to students starting college and university this week to avoid the harmful consequences of drug misuse.
As part of their ‘Campus Watch’ programme, gardaí today launched their #Riseabovetheinfluence drug awareness campaign highlighting the risks of recreational drugs as well as the "anxiety, addiction and psychosis" taking sleeping pills or unprescribed "study drugs" can lead to.
According to the HRB (Health Research Board) National Drugs Library, 674 people under the age of 18 entered drug treatment programmes last year — the majority used cannabis as their main problem drug.
A further 1,874 people aged between 18 and 24 entered drug treatment, with 61% of these admitting to using more than one drug.
"Freshers’ Week should be a time for celebration, the beginning of something good in your life,” said Detective Superintendent Sé McCormack of the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.
Using drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, ketamine, and MDMA is a criminal offence, and Det Supt McCormack said these substances also carry the additional risks of addiction, loss of career opportunities, under-achievement, and international travel restrictions.
Det Supt McCormack also warned of the health and prosecution risks associated with the use of nitrous oxide balloons, and the taking of cannabis edibles like jellies, sweets, drinks, vapes, or synthetic cannabinoids.
The campaign also stressed un-prescribed ‘study’ drugs or sleeping pills, the use of which have become more prevalent among third-level students in recent years, can lead to "anxiety, addiction, and psychosis".
The programme's most severe warning is against multiple or poly-drug use, which the force said is "extremely dangerous and increases risk of overdose or death".
"Our 'Rise above the influence' message is simple — your future is in your hands," Det Supt McCormack said.
"Seek out positive influences on Campus. Choose the influences which will enhance your future career."
"Drug use can lead to addiction, debt, prison and the destruction of your physical and mental health. You don’t know what you’re taking. You don’t know where it will take you," he added.
"Contact the emergency services if you become ill after consuming a drug or are in the presence of somebody who may be ill."
An Garda Síochána have said that anyone who has become ill after consuming a drug, or anyone who is in the presence of somebody who may be ill as a result of drug misuse, should contact emergency services immediately.