The drug classification system in Ireland : its impact on attitudes to drugs and on perceptions of harmfulness

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McGlinchey, Eimear
Issue Date
MA in Addiction Studies
Dublin Business School
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The issue of drug classification has been at the forefront of discussion in the UK over the past number of months; however this interest has not been as apparent in Ireland, where knowledge and awareness of the classification system is ambiguous. The purpose of a classification system is to both guide the judicial system and to identify those drugs which are most responsible for causing harm, in an attempt to reduce this harm. It was hypothesised that the current drug classification system in Ireland has an impact on the attitudes of individuals in relation to drugs and drug users, and that this in turn has an impact on the perceived harmfulness of certain drugs. A self-constructed questionnaire was used to examine the attitude of individuals towards drugs, drug users and knowledge of the classification system. Participants were also asked to rank a number of listed drugs in terms of their perceived harmfulness. 92 individuals participated in this study, with a breakdown of 35 males and 57 females. Participants ranged in age from 19 to 73 years old. Participants were recruited using a random sample selection. The results yielded were analysed using SPSS. Heroin was perceived as the most harmful drug, with alcohol viewed as the least harmful. Knowledge of the classification in Ireland was vague and unclear, with uncertainty surrounding its relationship to the UK system. There was much debate over the issue of head shops during the time of research, and this was reflected in the results, with the majority believing that these substances are more harmful than illegal substances. The results illustrated the need for a scientific and rational classification system, where drugs are listed in a meaningful way, thus strengthening the educational message.