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.

Survey finds frequency of cocaine use in Ireland is reducing


Chairperson of National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol (NACDA), Professor Catherine Comiskey, today (Tuesday 8th April 2014) launched the Drug Use in Ireland and Northern Ireland 2010/2011 Drug Prevalence Survey: Cocaine Results, Bulletin 4.

The bulletin is the latest in a series arising from data collected in the 2010/11 Drug Prevalence Survey.   It presents results on cocaine usage, as well as on a range of other issues including age of first use, usage patterns, how cocaine was obtained and attitudes in relation to cocaine.
The survey found that over one in fourteen people (7%) had used cocaine at some point in their life, 2% in the last year and 0.5% in the last month.  More than twice as many men (10%) as women (4%) reported using the drug at least once in their lives, and lifetime use among young people aged between 15 and 34 years was nearly twice the rate of use among those aged between 35 and 64 years (9.4% vs. 4.8%). 

Comparisons with previous surveys indicate significant increases in lifetime prevalence of cocaine use for all adults, for males and for older adults.  Dr Orla Dempsey, who carried out the analysis of this data for the NACDA, noted however, that there were significant decreases in the frequency of cocaine powder use since 2006/7; the majority of current cocaine powder users (96%) reported using cocaine on 1-3 days in the month before the survey which was the lowest frequency of use, compared to 68% in the previous survey. In addition, in the 2006/07 survey, 7% of current cocaine powder users had reported using cocaine on 20 or more days in the month prior to the survey while the latest survey recorded nil in this category.

According to the survey, the average age at which respondents first used cocaine was 21 years of age for both men and women.  The survey also found that, for those who became regular users the lag time from age of first use to regular use for all adults had increased since the last survey from 1 year to 1.5 years.
Welcoming the publication of the bulletin, Minister of State Alex White said, “Cocaine use involves serious physical and mental health risks and is particularly dangerous when combined with alcohol and other substances.   This survey will strengthen the evidence base underpinning the delivery of our services, so that we can respond to the changing prevalence and patterns of drug use in the general population”.

The survey provided insights into the social context in which the drug was used.  Just fewer than 80% of recent users (used in the last year) obtained their drugs from someone known to them. 20% bought the drug from a contact not known to them personally, were given the drug from a contact not known to them personally, or accepted the drug from a stranger.


Notes to the Editor

This bulletin is one of a series of seven arising from the NACDA 2010/11 Drug Prevalence Survey, which is jointly undertaken by the National Advisory Committee on Drug and Alcohol and the Public Health Information and Research Branch of the Department of Health, Social Services & Public Safety in Northern Ireland and measures the prevalence of key illegal drugs as well as alcohol, tobacco and other drugs including tranquillisers and anti-depressants. 
Fieldwork was carried out between October 2010 and May 2011 and the final sample comprised 7,669 respondents (5,134 in Ireland and 2,535 in Northern Ireland).  
The 2010/11 Survey is the third drug prevalence survey taken for the island of Ireland.  While earlier surveys included questions on alcohol consumption, 2010/11 marks the first time a comprehensive series of questions on both the rates and patterns of alcohol consumption in Ireland and on alcohol related harm have been included. 

Lifetime prevalence is a cumulative measure of the total number of people who have ever tried drugs and includes many who have done so in the past.  While valuable for other purposes, lifetime prevalence is not ideal for monitoring drug use prevalence in the general population. Recent or current levels of drug use as measured in the last year or last month are more appropriate indicators

Crack cocaine and heroin use

The population survey is a drug prevalence survey and is intended to reflect drug use in the general population as a whole.  For the purposes of this survey, we take the general population to mean those aged 15-64 and normally residing in households in Ireland and Northern Ireland.  It does not include those residing in institutions such as prisons, residential care, nursing homes, hospitals etc, hence the term general population. 

Other methodologies are used to establish information on hidden populations of problematic drug use such as crack and heroin.  The capture recapture study on problem opiate use published by the NACD in 2006 (title: Prevalence of Opiate Use in Ireland 2006: A 3-Source Capture Recapture Study) provided estimates of heroin use in Ireland.  The general population survey does not pick up this cohort adequately because problematic drug users due to the nature of addiction are likely to be either out using drugs, homeless, in prison, in a hospital or in residential care.

The NACDA is currently undertaking research to update the estimate of prevalence of Opiate Use in Ireland.

About the NACDA

The NACD was established in July 2000 to advise the Irish Government in relation to the prevalence, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and consequences of problem drug use in Ireland based its analysis of research findings and other information available to it. During 2013 the remit of the Committee was extended to incorporate alcohol as well as drugs and is now known as the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol (NACDA).

The NACDA comprises representatives nominated from relevant agencies and sectors, both statutory and non-statutory. The NACDA reports to the Minister of State responsible for the National Drugs Strategy.  

Hawkins House, Dublin 2 Tel 353 01 6354283 E mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


| + -

We use cookies to improve our website and your experience when using it. Some cookies may have been set already. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

I accept cookies from this site.

EU Cookie Directive Module Information