OVER HALF of Irish students have reported using drugs, a new survey has found.
It also found that one-third of respondents have used drugs in the last year, and one-fifth in the last month.
The Drug Use in Higher Education Institutions (DUHEI) survey was conducted by University College Cork and surveyed over 11,500 responses from students in 21 higher education institutions.
The survey population included undergraduate and postgraduate students aged 18 years and over.
Over half of participants felt drug use is a normal part of student life, but over half also felt drug use has a somewhat negative or an extremely negative impact on student life.
The most commonly used drugs are cannabis (52%) followed by cocaine (23%) and ketamine (16%). Other drugs used are mushrooms, amphetamines and New Psychoactive Substances.
Current drug users who use cannabis do so approximately twice weekly; those current users who use cocaine or ketamine do so approximately once monthly.
One in four male students report current drug use in comparison to one in six females.
For the majority of drug types, the age of first use was between 19-21, whereas for cannabis it was between 16-18.
Less than one in twenty (3.4%) of participants reported using smart drugs to enhance their academic performance.
Of those who had used drugs during COVID-19, one in three had decreased their use; while just less than one in four had increased their use over this period.
Launching the report, the Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris said:
"This report is an important resource for the Department and our higher education institutions.
"It helps understand the prevalence of drug use and the range of drugs being used by our students as well as detailing the impacts and effects, including harms caused by drug use in our student population.
"This data is vital to map the extent of the issue and will help us to develop appropriate responses and monitor trends in drug use in higher education over the coming years."
The My Understanding of Substance-use Experiences (MyUSE) research team in University College Cork (UCC), led by Dr Michael Byrne, was selected to develop the Drug Use in Higher Education in Ireland (DUHEI) Survey, supported by collaborators Assistant Professor Jo-Hanna Ivers of Trinity College Dublin, Professor Mary Cannon, of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, and Dr Eamon Keenan, HSE National Clinical Lead-Addiction Services.
The team stated:
"Most students in Higher Education in Ireland do not take drugs regularly, but a significant proportion do.
"If we are to work with our students and our institutions to address this issue, it is vital that we understand the reasons why our students choose to take drugs, or indeed choose not to take drugs; and to base our actions on data and evidence."