Cocaine has overtaken ecstasy as the second most common drug used by students, according to a national survey carried out by University College Cork (UCC).
The Drug Use in Higher Education Institutions (DUHEI) survey analysed over 11,500 responses from students across 21 higher education institutions, to give a national picture of drug use among Irish third-level students, so that future policy and practice in the area can be informed.
The survey population included undergraduate and postgraduate students aged 18 years and over.
Over half of students surveyed reported using an illicit drug, with over one-third reporting drug use in the last year, and one-fifth reporting using drugs in the last month.
Over 50 per cent 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.
Of those who had used drugs during Covid-19, one in three students had decreased their use; while just less than one in four had increased their use over this period
In terms of the most commonly used drugs are cannabis (52 per cent); cocaine (25 per cent); ecstasy (23 per cent); ketamine (16 per cent); mushrooms (12 per cent); amphetamines (9 per cent) and New Psychoactive Substances (8 per cent).
Cocaine has now replaced ecstasy to now be the second most common drug used by students.
For the majority of drug types, the age of first use was between 19-21, whereas for cannabis it was between 16-18. One in four current users starting use before they were 16 years of age.
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) developed the study and Dr Michael Byrne, Head of University College Cork (UCC) Student Health and lead of the DUHEI Project 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."