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One-in-six have used cannabis
Irishhealth.com 07/10/05

By Niall Hunter-Editor

A new 32-county survey has found that 17% of the Irish population has used cannabis at one stage in their lives, while 3% have reported using it in the past month. Over a quarter of people surveyed who said they had ever taken cannabis said that they had used cannabis at some stage in their lives, with 5% having used the drug in the past year and 3% in the past month.

Prevalence rates of cannabis use were higher among young respondents; the lifetime prevalence rate for those aged 15 to 34 (24%) was more than double that for those aged 35 to 64. Male respondents in the survey reported higher rates of cannabis use than females. The lifetime prevalence rate for males was 22% compared to 12% for females.

Younger men were also twice as likely as older men to have used cannabis. The average age of first use of cannabis was reported as 18. Regular users of cannabis started use on average at the younger age of 16 years. Twenty-two per cent of current users reported daily use of cannabis.

Just over a quarter (27%) of respondents who said they had ever taken cannabis said that they had used it regularly. Of these 58% said that they had stopped taking cannabis and one-in-eight said that they had tried to stop and failed, while three in 10 respondents said they had never tried to stop.

It was found that 31% of respondents to the survey were given cannabis by a family member of friend and a further 27% of respondents said they had shared cannabis amongst a group of friends.

The findings are among the key results contained in the latest bulletin of- ‘Drug use in Ireland and Northern Ireland 2002-2003-Drug Prevalence Survey’ launched today by Mr Noel Ahern, Minister for State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy. Commenting on the findings, Dr Des Corrigan, Chairperson of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) said this information contradicts the popular view of the dealer as someone completely unknown to the user and highlights how important it is for parents to know who their children are associating with, what they are doing and if they are being supervised.

Dr Corrigan said the potency of the cannabis available in Ireland has increased in recent years, increasing the risk of dependence and psychiatric problems. In terms of the physical health effects, it is estimated that up to four times the amount of tar can be deposited on the lungs by smoking a cannabis joint compared to a standard tobacco cigarette, he said. The study was carried out on the island of Ireland, involving a total of 8,434 people.