snort it out | 

Fewer people smoking or drinking but use of cocaine and speed is on the rise, report finds

Abuse of cocaine is on the rise. Picture posed

Tracking trend: research officer Deirdre Mongan

Eilish O’Regan, Health Correspondent

Growing numbers of us are teetotallers and there are fewer smokers, but people are taking more drugs, particularly cocaine and amphetamines.

One in 14 people have used an illegal drug in the past year, a figure unchanged since the last survey in 2014-2015, a Health Research Board report found.

However, during that time there has been a rise in the number of people who use illegal stimulants – cocaine, ecstasy and amphetamines, also known as speed – and a small decrease in the number of people using cannabis.

There has also been a rise in the use of LSD and poppers.

Research showed 15 to 24-year-olds are most likely to admit drug use. Men are twice as likely as women to use drugs.

However, for the first time, former smokers outnumber smokers. Fewer 15 to 64-year-olds are smoking tobacco than ever before, down from 33pc in 2002-2003 to 19pc in 2019-2020.

“This reflects a trend in the rise of non-smokers. Also, one in four of the population have given up smoking, motivated by health concerns, cost and health warning labels,” research officer Dr Deirdre Mongan said.

“Smoking rates have now decreased by over 40pc since 2002-2003 when one-third of 15 to 64-year-olds smoked.”

The number of people abstaining from alcohol has risen since 2002-2003, notably among 15 to 24-year-olds, up from 18pc to 28pc.

This trend has also improved among 25 to 34-year-olds, from 9pc to 19pc.

The age at which young people have their first drink has also risen, from age 16 in 2002-2003 to age 17 in 2019-2020.

“There has been an increase in the number of people who do not drink and the age at which young people have their first drink has also risen,” Dr Mongan said.

“This is an encouraging finding as the younger a person starts drinking, the more likely they are to develop alcohol use disorder in adulthood.

“Of concern, however, is the high prevalence of alcohol use disorder among young people who do drink.”

Rates of hazardous and harmful drinking remain high. Two out of five drinkers engage in heavy monthly binge-drinking.

Hazardous and harmful drinking is most common among 15 to 24-year-olds.

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