Published: 01 January 2000
Drug-related knowledge, attitudes and beliefs in Ireland: report of a nation-wide survey
This report presents the findings of a nation-wide survey of public attitudes towards, and perceptions of, aspects of the drug issue in Ireland. The questionnaire on which the research was based constituted a module of the 1998 Irish Social Omnibus Survey. A total of 1,000 individuals, randomly selected from the 1997 Register of Electors for Ireland (26 counties), took part in the study. Data was collected using face-to-face interviews between February and April 1998.
The survey found that members of the general public were generally aware of the kinds of illegal drugs most commonly used. Self-reported cannabis use (as measured by lifetime prevalence) stood at 12 per cent. The younger urban sector of society tended to have greater personal experience of cannabis, to know people who had taken cannabis or had 'a drug problem'. The results indicated a high level of concern about the current drug situation among the general public. Three quarters of the respondents were of the opinion that the current drug situation in Ireland was 'out of control'. There was concern also regarding the legal drug, alcohol. Over half of respondents (56%) considered that alcohol abuse caused more problems in society than drug abuse.
A substantial proportion of respondents believed that experimentation with drugs was commonplace among young people. Respondents generally regarded illegal drug taking as a dangerous pursuit. Social avoidance and fear of drug users and those addicted to drugs were high among respondents. Moreover, sympathy for drug addicted individuals was relatively low, with over half the respondents believing that those with a drug problem had only themselves to blame. Those with personal knowledge of someone 'with a drug problem' typically held more positive attitudes towards those who were addicted to drugs. Consistent with the widespread concern about the severity of the current drug situation was an overwhelmingly high level of support for drug prevention. Current harm reduction initiatives, including the provision of heroin substitutes such as methadone, and needle exchange facilities to heroin dependent clients, received support from two thirds of respondents (63% and 66% respectively).