We all know that when it comes to the booze, us Irish have an intrinsic and well documented love affair with the ‘few scoops’.
However, when it comes to illegal drugs it seems that we may be a lot more conservative as a nation. According to a 2012 survey by The European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD), one in five Irish third-level students have tried illegal drugs, which is surprisingly low when compared to other European averages.
Of all illicit substances, cannabis still remains the most popular and widely accepted illegal drug among third level students, perhaps owing to its slim health risks in comparison to other drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine’s. Some even regard cannabis as basically harmless next to the highly addictive substances previously mentioned.
As one Trinity College student and frequent cannabis smoker Conor Hanley puts it: “I’m a much calmer person after a joint than after a few pints. Staying in and rolling a few joints works out a lot cheaper than a night on the beer and it’s a way for me to relax and unwind.” Cannabis use remains higher among male students than female.
After cannabis, ecstasy is the second widely used illicit substance among third level students in Ireland. However, according to the ESPAD survey, its use is less widely accepted than cannabis. This is perhaps owing to the higher health risks associated with taking the drug. One of the big risk factors for ecstasy users is the possibility of purchasing tainted pills. Also, a small number of people may take an allergic reaction to pills which can be fatal.
The use of ecstasy pills and powder MDMA allegedly still remains a big part of rave culture in Ireland, which began in the early 1990’s. Eva Guinness, an IADT student told The College View: “I wouldn’t say that I’d be in favour of the legality of ecstasy but it does have certain cons and pros. College leaves students stressed and I think to relieve this stress, some students might take the odd pill because it’s qualities are said to boost endorphins. But like any illegal drug, you never know exactly what you’re taking and that’s the danger.”
A small number of third level students have also tried hallucinogenic substances such as magic mushrooms, LSD and ketamine. The number of Irish people who have tried ketamine in particular has risen in the past five years.
A small number of third level students have also tried and regularly take cocaine, however online threads state that the quality of cocaine available in Ireland has dropped significantly in the past decade.
Overall, it seems that, for better or worse, alcohol still remains the drug of choice for the vast majority of Irish students. The imminent risks of alcohol misuse may not be as high as those of ecstasy or cocaine; however the long term health implications of alcohol abuse include liver disease and even liver failure.
It seems that for students and the wider public, every high, legal or otherwise, comes with a price.