National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol

The NACDA was established in response to the drug problem to assist in our continued need to improve our knowledge and understanding of problem drug use.

The goal of the NACDA is to advise the Government on problem drug use in Ireland in relation to prevalence, prevention consequences and treatment based on our analysis and interpretation of research findings.

Minister for Drugs Alex White welcomes publication of the Cannabis Bulletin Drug Prevalence Survey 2010/11

Frequency of the use of cannabis reduced between 2006/2007 and 2010/2011

The frequency of use of cannabis reduced in Ireland between 2006/7 and 2010/11, according to “Drug Use in Ireland and Northern Ireland Drug Prevalence Survey 2010/2011: Cannabis Results”, the third in a series of seven bulletins arising from data collected in the 2010/11 Drug Prevalence Survey.

The bulletin, which is presented by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol (NACDA), reports the use of cannabis on lifetime, last year and last month levels as well as a range of other issues including age of first use, methods of using cannabis, how it is obtained and the profile of those who take it. For the first time, the bulletin includes prevalence rates for cannabis dependence and cannabis abuse for both current users and in the general population.

Minister of State Alex White said “I welcome the publication of this Drug Prevalence Survey bulletin as it provides the best measure of the current cannabis situation in Ireland, thus informing policy formulation for the period ahead”. The Minister commented “I would emphasise the dangers of cannabis use for physical and mental health, especially as the cannabis now available is much more potent than in the past.”

The Chairperson of the NACDA, Professor Catherine Comiskey said, “Cannabis continues to be the most commonly used illegal drug and lifetime use has increased but the frequency of use has decreased. 6% of respondents reported having used cannabis in the last year, 3% in the last month and the proportion of all adults reporting highest frequency use (20 or more days in the month) has declined (from 24.4% to 13.9%).”

Professor Comiskey continued, “It is significant that the level of recent and current drug use of cannabis has remained stable between 2006/2007 and 2010/2011. This is in line with the experience of other countries. The survey indicates that in the general population, people are quite tolerant of the use of cannabis for medicinal reasons, but less so for other use.”

The survey found that there has been a marked switch from cannabis resin to herbal cannabis in the period and cannabis herb now dominates the market in Ireland.



Notes for Editors

Some key findings of the survey

  • Men aged 15-24 were more than twice as likely as women to report last year use of cannabis.
  • Prevalence rates were highest among men and younger adults (15-34 years). While increases were found in rates for men since the last survey in 2006/7, there has been relatively little change in rates for women.
  • Lifetime prevalence of cannabis use increased from 22% in 2006/7 to 25% in 2010/11 among (15-64 years). As this is a cumulative measure of the total number of people who have ever tried cannabis, it would be expected to increase.
  • The survey also found that last year and last month figures remain stable (6.3% and 2.6% in 2006/7 respectively compared to 6.0% and 2.8% in 2010/2011).
  • Among all adults (15-64 yrs) the share classified as cannabis dependent is less than 1%. Among recent cannabis users 9% were classified as cannabis dependent. Dependence was higher among male and among young adult recent users.
  • Among all adults (15-64 yrs) just over 1% meets the criteria (defined in the survey) for cannabis abuse. Among recent cannabis users 17% met criteria for cannabis abuse. Rates of cannabis abuse are higher among male and young adult recent users.
  • Among those who reported ever using cannabis (lifetime users) the median age of first use was 18 years. This is unchanged since the last survey.
  • The majority of current cannabis users report using cannabis on 1 to 3 days in the month prior to the survey (lowest frequency category) and this response was most common among female and older adult current users.
  • Since the survey in 2006/7 the share engaging in highest frequency use (20 days or more in the month) has decreased, particularly among male and young adult current users. The share of current cannabis users engaging in lowest frequency use (1-3 days in the month) has increased.
  • The majority of recent cannabis users said it would be easy for them to obtain cannabis in a given 24-hour period.
  • The majority of lifetime cannabis users said they had never used the drug on a regular basis. Of those who have, most said they had stopped using.
  • The three most common reasons given for stopping cannabis use were: not wanting to take it anymore; it no longer being a part of respondents’ social life and; health concerns.
  • With regard to attitudes to cannabis use, most respondents

          Agreed with cannabis use being permitted for medical reasons

          Disagreed with cannabis use being permitted for recreational reasons

          Disapproved of smoking cannabis occasionally 

          Considered smoking cannabis on a regular basis to be risky

  • Rates for lifetime cannabis were highest among those classified as Group A (professionals and managers) and lowest among those in Group D (semi-skilled and un-skilled).
  • Cannabis prevalence rates are highest among people renting accommodation: Lifetime and last year rates were highest among those renting from a private landlord, while rates for last month use were highest among those renting from a local authority/housing agency.
  • The results show that levels of recent and current cannabis use increase with higher education: Last year and last month prevalence rates were highest among students; Lifetime rates were highest among those who ceased education at 20 years and over and among those with third level education. Rates were lowest among those who ceased education at 15 years or under and among those with primary level education only.
  • Lifetime and last year prevalence were highest among those who were cohabiting, followed by those who were single. Last month rates were highest among cohabiting and divorced people.
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