A new report has shown that Ireland's young people have the highest use of psychoactive drugs in Europe, writes Clara Hickey.
Irish youths between 15 to 24 are the highest users of psychoactive drugs in Europe, according to a new report by the European Schools Survey Project (ESPAD).
 
The report found that, on average, 4% of students surveyed in other European countries had used psychoactive drugs, while it was almost double in Ireland at 7%.
 
Psychoactive substances are designed to mimic illegal drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, and heroin. Manufacturers of these drugs develop new chemicals to replace the illegal ones, meaning the chemical structure of the drugs are constantly changing.
 
With the accessibility to such psychoactive drugs such as ecstasy in Ireland being the highest in Europe at 20%, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) have teamed up with Drugs.ie and the HSE to launch a new harm reduction information campaign for those who use psychoactive substances.
 
The campaign, which was officially launched by Minister of State for Health Catherine Byrne, focuses primarily on the side effects and safe use of ecstasy and ketamine. These include the effects of ecstasy making people become sexually aroused, and ketamine causing you to become dehydrated.
 
“It’s important for us to ensure that students’ relationship with substances is as safe as possible,” says Annie Hoey, USI President. “We are urging students to be vigilant against unknown substances, and if anyone decides to take drugs, following a harm reduction regime is crucial.”
 
Although the campaign focuses on these two drugs, the ESPAD reported worrying figures about cocaine and cannabis in Ireland too. Along with ecstasy, accessibility to cocaine was highest in Ireland at 17% to 19%, along with Bulgaria and Poland.
 
The highest frequencies of cannabis use was also found in Ireland, with students having used the drug, on average, 11.5 or more occasions in the past 12 months (2015), in comparison to the average of 8.9 occasions among students in other European countries. The report also showed higher frequencies of cannabis usage among boys at 15.4 occasions in the past 12 months (2015) in comparison to 8.8 occasions among girls.
 
If you are worried about your alcohol or drug consumption habits, freephone the HSE Drug/Alcohol Helpline on 1800459459 Monday to Friday between 9.30am and 5.30pm.