Survey to determine the prevalence of the use of illict drugs, alcohol, prescription drugs and gambling in the general population

The National Drug and Alcohol Survey (NDAS) 2019–20 was a household survey of 5,762  people in Ireland aged 15 and over.  It looked what drugs people are using and how often, people’s perceptions and attitudes towards drugs, and the impact of drugs on local communities. It is the first time the HRB has conducted the survey, and the fifth survey that has been undertaken since 2002–03.

Key findings

  • One-in-fourteen (7%) people have used an illegal drug in the last year. This hasn’t changed since the most recent survey in 2014/15.
  • There has been an increase in the number of people who use illegal stimulants (cocaine, ecstasy, amphetamines) and a small decrease in the number of people using cannabis.
  • 15–24-year-olds are most likely to report drug use. Men are twice as likely as women to use drugs.
  • A wider range of drugs are being used since the previous survey, with 25% of those who used drugs in the last year reporting use of at least three different drugs compared with 15% in 2014/15.
  • Cocaine use has increased across all age groups. Men aged 25–34 are most likely to report cocaine use in the last year, rising from 2% in 2002–03 to 9% in 2019–20.
  • Nine-in-ten people support the use of cannabis for medical purposes, while less than three-in-ten support recreational use.
  • In areas that are most and least deprived there is little difference in the prevalence of drug use, while communities with high levels of deprivation are disproportionately impacted by the negative effects of drug use activities in their local area. 
  • There are fewer smokers than ever before. The current survey is the first time  that the proportion of ex-smokers was found to be greater than current smokers.Health concerns, cost and health warning labels were cited as the main reasons for quitting.
  • One-in-five drinkers have an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD); this increases to one-in-three among drinkers aged 15–24 years.Drinkers with AUD were 13 times more likely to experience alcohol-related harm compared to low-risk drinkers.