There is an issue with the drink and drug culture among Irish youth

Aoife Breslin

Excessive drinking is a widespread issue among Irish students. Credit: Sonja Tutty

In Ireland many think our culture focuses around drinking alcohol, causing us to have the second highest consumption rates in Europe.

The Irish people use drinking as a regular hobby rather than an occasional activity. Binge drinking is a normal thing for Irish people and the youth in Ireland lead by example, watching their parents, siblings or friends drinking regularly and may feel obliged to partake.

According to Alcohol Action Ireland, 64% of males and 51% of females started drinking before they reached the legal age of 18.

It is evident in Ireland that we do have a problem with drink and drug culture among young people, with the youth being irresponsible while intoxicated. The RSA found that 17-24-year olds are the highest number of drivers who have caused fatal collisions where alcohol was a factor.

Many teenagers today start drinking between the ages of 13-16 years old. At this age they are too young to understand the effects of alcohol on our bodies. By the time many of them have turned 18 years old, they have been consuming alcohol for so long that they lose interest and unfortunately turn to recreational drug use.

According to the European School Survey Project on Drugs and Alcohol 5 per cent of teenagers aged 15-16-years had taken cannabis by the age of 13. The youth today have a far greater accessibility to drugs and alcohol, with 43 per cent of teenagers admitting that they would find it easy to source cannabis.

Criminal gangs in Ireland are recruiting and exploiting children as young as 11 years old into the drug trade, according to research on the impact of criminal networks on young people.

Unfortunately, this happened to 17-year-old Keane Mulready-Woods who was murdered and dismembered in a bloody drug feud earlier this year.

What these teenagers do not realise is the lasting effects that drugs and alcohol have. Alcohol and drugs can cause serious health problems, addiction and can potentially ruin lives.

However, the root of the problem is that the youth of today are not correctly educated on the effects of alcohol and drug use. Is there enough supports in Ireland to help young people escape our drinking and drug culture?

In school, children do not receive enough education on drugs and alcohol, causing young people to go out at the weekends and binge drink, which then for some of them becomes a typical part of their lifestyle.

In Ireland, we are lucky to have several rehabilitation centers for addicts, such as Alcoholics Anonymous meetings which are held in every county along with addiction counselling.

However, many people that require rehabilitation for addiction simply cannot afford it, with residential treatment centers costing up to €8000. With many drug users and alcoholics in Ireland being homeless, some are not able to access free help.

It seems that we could lower the drinking and drug culture among Irish youth if young people were educated properly on the consequences and lasting effects. They should be given the correct information about substance abuse and the supports that are open to them.

Aoife Breslin

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