Young people and illicit drugs : their knowledge and experience

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O'Neill, Mary
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BA Counselling and Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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The aims of this research were to capture young people's experience and knowledge of illicit drug use in Dublin City and outside Dublin. It was an attempt to establish their level of awareness of commonly used illicit drugs and to ascertain their perceptions of the harmfulness of these drugs. The same confidential anonymously completed questionnaires were issued to all participants. Two schools were included: one in Dublin City and one outside Dublin. A total of seventy-nine pupils aged 18-22 years from both schools completed the questionnaires. The measurements were based on self-reported level of experience and knowledge of illicit drug use. Out of a total of 170 questionnaires distributed 79 (46%) responded, with a greater response rate in the outside Dublin sample. Of the respondents 71-77% knew others who were taking drugs, while 61- 66% had been offered them. The drugs most frequently mentioned were ecstasy and cannabis. The reasons stated for taking illicit drugs were commonly, 'It is cool', ‘peer pressure’, low self-esteem ‘to escape problems’. Television was the most frequently named source of information and the majority of them were aware of the dangers of illicit drug use. Social and peer pressures were the main issues that caused them to resort to drugs, which they felt they needed to help them cope with stress. The findings suggest that there is a persistent high level of illicit drug use in both urban and rural Ireland and that that trend is in keeping with other European countries. On-going education and more focus on parenting skills and attachment in infancy are a recommendation for further review.