Use of ecstasy and cocaine drops during pandemic

Use of cannabis herb increased the most of all illegal drugs during the first year of Covid-19 restrictions,  according to an EU-wide survey which included nearly 5,800 respondents
Use of ecstasy and cocaine drops during pandemic

Nine out of 10 survey respondents reported using cannabis in the previous 12 months. Picture: Getty

Use of cannabis herb increased the most of all illegal drugs during the first year of Covid-19 restrictions among people who took part in a large-scale EU-wide survey.

Reflecting the effective shutdown of pubs, clubs and parties across much of Europe, use of ecstasy and cocaine reduced the greatest among respondents in the year.

The survey, covering the year March 2020 to March 2021, also found that users of crack and heroin increased their consumption over that period.

Almost 49,000 people across 21 EU countries, along with nine non-EU countries, took part in the study — including nearly 5,800 Irish people.

Brian Harvey, of the Health Research Board said they, along with the HSE, were analysing the data and hope to publish separate Irish figures later in the year.

He said this was the first European Web Survey on Drugs that Ireland had participated in, with the 5,782 Irish participants mainly recruited through social media.

The report published by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction covers use of cannabis (herb and resin), cocaine, ecstasy, amphetamines, methamphetamine, heroin, and new psychoactive substances (NPS), with the Irish survey also including nitrous oxide and magic mushrooms.

The survey collected data between March and April 2021.

The report said that “by far the most commonly reported setting” for drug use in the previous 12 months was the home, mentioned by more than 85 % of the respondents.

Home use would be expected to be predominant, though this pattern may have been accentuated by the reduced mobility resulting from COVID-19 lockdowns.

Nine out of 10 respondents reported using cannabis in the previous 12 months, with over a third saying they took MDMA and the same percentage taking cocaine.

Questions on motivations for taking the drugs suggested herbal cannabis was taken for its “calming and euphoric effects”, specifically to reduce stress or to relax, to get high or for fun, and to improve sleep.

For MDMA, euphoric and socialising effects were reported as motivations, the report said.

The figures on changes in usage show:

  • Ecstasy: 42% of respondents took it less in the previous 12 months, with 11% taking it more;
  • Cocaine: 33% took it less, while 18% took it more;
  • Cannabis resin: 25% took it less, with 21% taking it more;
  • Crack: 20% took it less, but 25% took it more; 
  • Cannabis herb: 20% took it less, but 32% it more; 
  • Heroin: 17% took it less, with 26% taking it more.

The report said that while web surveys were “not representative of the general population”, when carefully conducted and combined with traditional data-collection methods, they can help “paint a more detailed, realistic and timely picture” of drug use and drug markets in Europe.

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