Vast majority of Irish students have used illegal drugs

Graham de Barra, director of Help Not Harm

A survey carried out on behalf of a pro-harm reduction group in Ireland has found that 82 per cent of Irish third-level students have tried illegal drugs.

The study’s findings, based on 2,700 responses from all Irish colleges and universities, were published by Help Not Harm as government minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin attended one of its meetings in Cork.

Mr Ó Ríordáin, who has responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, has previously said he is in favour of decriminalising the possession of drugs for personal use.

The Oireachtas justice committee went on to recommend the “effective” decriminalisation of drug possession for personal use.

Graham de Barra, director of Help Not Harm, said the evidence showed that “the current approach has failed” and a national debate had to be started on drug use.

He added: “Eighty per cent of students have tried drugs at least once in their lifetime and, clearly, criminality is not deterring drug use in Ireland. What it might be doing is stigmatising people and preventing people from getting help.”

Mr de Barra also said the survey found evidence that some Irish students are purchasing drug testing kits to confirm the quality of drugs they intend to use.

The study was conducted by Mr de Barra as well as Tim Bingham of the National Student Drug Survey and Dr Colin O’Driscoll.

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