Wednesday, 4 February 2004

Questions (127)

John Gormley


214 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the views of his Department on the findings on ecstasy use by the European monitoring centre for drugs and drug addiction on behalf of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs. [3163/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I believe the Deputy is referring to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, EMCDDA, Annual Report for 2003 on the State of the Drugs Problem in the European Union and Norway which was released a couple of months ago.

That report found that after cannabis, the most commonly used drug in EU countries is usually either amphetamines and or ecstasy, which are the second most commonly used illicit drugs in Europe. In this context, recent use of ecstasy, that is, use at any point in a given previous 12 month period, in Ireland was reported as high and being just under 5% in the 15-34 age group in the EMCDDA report. However, the Deputy should note that the data reported in relation to ecstasy use in Ireland was primarily based on data which is six years old — taken from the 1998 SLÁN survey.

In this context, I draw the Deputy's attention to the results of the first drug prevalence survey in Ireland, which I launched in October 2003. This survey was undertaken jointly by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs, for which my Department has responsibility, the Drug and Alcohol Information and Research Unit in Northern Ireland, the National Advisory Committee on Drugs, NACD, for which my Department has responsibility, and the Drug and Alcohol Information and Research Unit, DAIRU, in Northern Ireland, and it provides solid statistical information and more up-to to-date figures on drug use in Ireland.

As part of the survey, a total of 8,442 people were interviewed on a face-to-face basis between October 2002 and April 2003 in line with EMCDDA guidelines. With regard to ecstasy, the survey reported usage in the last year prior to the study in the 15 to 34 year old age bracket at 2.2% and at 1.1% for the 15 to 64 year old group. In relation to last month use, the levels are 0.3% of 15 to 64 year olds and 0.6% of 15 to 34 year olds. Although this level of usage is still of concern, it shows Ireland to be more in line with European norms.

In general, the drug prevalence survey found that the vast majority of the general population have never used any illegal drugs and that a relatively small percentage are currently using illegal drugs. However, we are aware that drug use — including the use of ecstasy — continues to do much harm in society and the Government is determined to continue tackling it through the ongoing implementation of the 100 actions set out in the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008.