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Ireland country overview — a summary of the national drug situation



Ireland country overview
A summary of the national drug situation

Map of Ireland

Our partner in Ireland

The Irish national focal point is located in the Health Research Board (HRB). The HRB is a statutory body with a mission to improve health through research and information. The HRB is responsible for promoting, commissioning and conducting medical, epidemiological and health services research in Ireland. Read more »

Health Research Board

42-47 Lower Mount Street, third floor, Knockmaun House
Dublin 2
Tel. +353 12345168

Head of focal point: Mr Brian Galvin

Our partner in Ireland

Health Research Board

42-47 Lower Mount Street, third floor, Knockmaun House
Dublin 2
Tel. +353 12345168

Head of focal point: Mr Brian Galvin

The Irish national focal point is located in the Health Research Board (HRB). The HRB is a statutory body with a mission to improve health through research and information. The HRB is responsible for promoting, commissioning and conducting medical, epidemiological and health services research in Ireland. Within the HRB a multidisciplinary team of researchers and information specialists work to provide objective, reliable and comparable information on the drug situation, its consequence and responses in Ireland. The HRB disseminates research findings, information and news in the drugs area through its Trends series and through a quarterly research and policy bulletin, Drugnet Ireland. Through its research and dissemination activities, the HRB aims to inform policy and practice in relation to drug misuse.

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Drug use among the general population and young people

The first national survey on drug use among the general population was carried out in Ireland in 2002–03 among people aged 15–64. The results were jointly published by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol (NACD) and the Drug and Alcohol Information and Research Unit (DAIRU) within the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland. This survey was repeated in 2006–07 and in 2010–11, interviewing 4 967 and 5 128 people respectively. The proportion of respondents who reported the use of any illicit drug during their lifetime increased from 24 % in 2006–07 to 27.2 % in 2010–11, while the proportion of those who reported use of an illicit drug during the last year and during the last month remained unchanged. In 2010–11 cannabis was the most frequently reported ever-used substance, followed by ecstasy and cocaine. Cannabis use was more prevalent among males, and in younger age groups. Among young adults (aged 15–34) lifetime prevalence for cannabis use was 33.4 %, an increase on the previous survey, and last year prevalence remained stable at 10.3 %. Lifetime prevalence for cocaine use (including crack) increased to 6.4 %, from 5.1 % in 2006–07, while last year prevalence and last month prevalence decreased slightly. The lifetime prevalence rates for ecstasy use also increased compared to data from 2006–07; however, an almost threefold decline was observed over the four-year period in the proportion of those reporting recent and current use of ecstasy.

The latest Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey (including drug-related questions) was conducted in Ireland in 2009/10, and included questions on cannabis. It found that 15 % of those aged 15–16 reported using cannabis during their lifetime, compared with 24 % in 2006.

Data based on the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD), conducted regularly in Ireland since 1999 among 15- to 16-year-old students, reveal a downward trend in the lifetime prevalence rates of all surveyed substances. Thus the lifetime prevalence rate of cannabis decreased from 39 % in 2003 to 18 % in 2011. The second most commonly used substances are inhalants, with a lifetime prevalence of 9 % in 2011, down from 15 % in 2007. Results also indicated a decline in the last year and last month prevalence rates for cannabis use, with a more visible decline among females than males.

Look for Prevalence of drug use in the 'Statistical bulletin' for more information  

High-risk drug use

Up to 2012 the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) defined problem drug use as injecting drug use (IDU) or long duration/regular use of opiates, cocaine and/or amphetamines. However, in 2012 a new definition of ‘high-risk drug use’ was adopted. The new definition includes ‘problem drug use’, but is broader (mainly in its inclusion of high-risk use of more substances). Details are available here.

A 2006 capture–recapture study estimated a total number of 20 790 opiate users (range: 18 136–23 576), or 7.2 per 1 000 population aged 15–64 (range: 6.2–8.10), with two-thirds of the estimated users being from Dublin.

The new estimate of the number of opiate users is to be completed in 2015. Based on 2010–11 general population study data, it is estimated that 0.4 % of 15- to 64-year-olds in Ireland use cannabis daily or almost daily.

Look for High risk drug-use in the Statistical bulletin for more information.  

Treatment demand

Treatment demand data are collected from agencies in Ireland that report to the National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS). The system collects data from outpatient and inpatient facilities, low-threshold methadone maintenance units, crisis counselling units, general practitioners and treatment units in prisons. In 2013 a total of 230 outpatient and 40 inpatient treatment units, 55 treatment units in prisons, 277 general practitioners and 23 low –threshold units reported to the NDTRS.

In 2013 a total of 8 684 clients entered treatment, of whom 3 470 were new clients entering treatment for the first time. Data regarding all treatment clients suggest that opioids was the main problem drug for 51 %, followed by cannabis at 29 % and cocaine at 8 %. Among new treatment clients, cannabis was the main problem drug for 47 %, followed by opioids at 30 % and cocaine at 9 %. Around 41 % of all and 34 % of new treatment clients whose primary drug is opioids injects it, while the injection of other substances (cocaine or stimulants) is extremely rare.

Special attention is given to the ethnic minority group, the Traveller Community, entering drug treatment in Ireland. A study comparing the situation in 2007 and 2010 reported an increase in the number of cases from the Traveller Community entering drug treatment and an increase in those misusing benzodiazepines as their primary drug.

In 2013, the mean age of all clients entering treatment was 30, while new treatment clients tended to be younger, and on average were aged 27. With regard to gender distribution, among all clients entering treatment 73 % were male and 27 % were female. A slightly higher proportion of males was reported among new treatment clients, with 77 % male and 23 % female.

Look for Treatment demand indicator in the Statistical bulletin for more information.  

Drug-related infectious diseases

Data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) indicate that in 2013, among 344 people newly diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), 18 of the reported cases were injecting drug users (13 in 2012; 16 in 2011; 22 in 2010; 30 in 2009; 36 in 2008; 50 in 2007).

According to the data from HPSC, a risk factor was reported for 540 cases of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, and of these 372 reported injecting drug use as their main risk factor. Older age, high-risk injecting practices and increased time spent in prison have been associated with a positive HCV status among people who inject drugs in Ireland. With regard to hepatitis B virus (HBV), a downward trend in the number of notifications has been observed between 2008 and 2013 (803 in 2009; 645 in 2010; 525 in 2011; 581 in 2012, 431 in 2013). It is thought that sexual transmission continues to be the predominant mode of transmission; however, for about half of the notifications the transmission route remains unknown. Self-reported data gathered from harm reduction services clients in 2012 indicated HIV prevalence at 8 %, HBV at 5 % and HCV at 45 % among clients who had ever been tested.

Look for Drug-related infectious diseases in the Statistical bulletin for more information.  

Drug-induced deaths and mortality among drug users

Direct drug-induced deaths are those occurring as a result of overdose. In Ireland the data are collected and reported by the National Drug-Related Death Index. Data extraction and reporting is in line with the EMCDDA definitions for selection D and recommendations.

The number of deaths (mainly due to opioids, frequently as polydrug poisoning) has increased since 2003, from 105 in 2003 to 232 in 2011, while in 2012 it fell to 181. The majority of all deceased were male (147 of cases). On average, victims were 36.5 years old. A total of 149 deaths had known toxicology results, the majority (139) of which were found to have opioids, while more than two-thirds of cases were attributed to polydrug use. Methadone was present in about 86 deaths recorded in 2012, which is lower than 2011. Heroin was present in 61 deaths reported in 2012, which also is lower than reported in previous years.

The drug-induced mortality rate among adults (aged 15–64) was 58.5 deaths per million in 2011, more than three time the 2013 European average of 17.2 deaths per million.

Look for Drug-related deaths in the Statistical bulletin for more information.  

Treatment responses

In Ireland the Department of Health is responsible for developing and reviewing drug treatment policy and strategy, while the Health Service Executive (HSE), which manages Ireland’s public health sector, is responsible for implementing this treatment strategy and preparation of annual National Service Plans. The management of all addiction services falls under the remit of Primary, Community and Continuing Care, which oversees a number of national care groups. Funding for treatment is generally provided by the statutory sector through the HSE; however, in some cases individuals are obliged to contribute to the cost of drug treatment (excluding methadone maintenance treatment), usually through private medical care plans.

Treatment is provided through a network of statutory and non-statutory agencies. Medication-assisted treatment includes opioid detoxification and opioid substitution treatment (OST), mainly methadone, alcohol and benzodiazepine detoxification, psychiatric treatment and various forms of counselling and psychotherapy. Medication-free therapy uses models such as therapeutic communities and the Minnesota Model, frequently adapted to the needs of the clients.

Alternative therapies such as acupuncture are provided through both statutory and community projects. Furthermore, pregnant opioid users are entitled to immediate access to treatment. There are also specific initiatives available for drug users under the age of 18. These include psychiatric therapy, family therapy and specially adapted medication-free therapy. The total number of drug treatment services available in Ireland showed a strong increase between 1998 and 2004, with the largest expansion in the outpatient sector.

The integrated care pathways model was recently piloted in Ireland and it also forms the conceptual basis for the National Drug Rehabilitation Framework published in 2010. Detoxification is provided through various inpatient services: psychiatric hospitals, specialised detoxification units and detoxification beds within residential centres. Outpatient detoxification is supported in the community through outpatient services including clinics and general practitioners (GPs).

OST is provided by treatment centres, specialised GPs and in prisons. Methadone, introduced in 1992, is the most commonly used agent for opioid detoxification and substitution treatment. As of 31 December 2013 a total of 9 640 clients enrolled in OST had received methadone. In order to improve the quality of OST new guidelines for prescribing methadone in pregnancy were issued in 2013, while the first national clinical guidelines for opioid treatment are under revision.

In July 2009 a feasibility study began on the use of suboxone treatment as an alternative to methadone. It was conducted at several specialist addiction centres in Dublin and a number of Level II GP practices in Dublin and around the country. An independent evaluation conducted in 2010/2011 found that 139 patients were registered as having received suboxone treatment between 2006 and 2011. In 2010 the Department of Health set up an expert group to examine the regulatory framework for products containing buprenorphine/naloxone and buprenorphine only for the treatment of opioid dependence. Based on relevant documents and on the evaluation of the feasibility study for suboxone, the group defined the circumstances under which the use of the buprenorphine/naloxone combination is appropriate, while recommending the use of methadone as the drug of first choice.

See the Treatment profile for Ireland for additional information.  

Harm reduction responses

Needle and syringe exchange services were first provided in 1989, when five exchanges were established. There are two models of service operating: fixed-site exchanges (24 sites), and home visit exchanges, or ‘backpacking’ (one site). In 2009 the HSE in cooperation with the Irish Pharmacy Foundation announced a project to provide needle and syringe exchange through community-based pharmacies. The project was rolled out in 2011 in cooperation with the Elton John Aids Foundation, and in 2013 a total of 71 pharmacy-based sites were operating across Ireland. Between 583 and 1 243 clients attended pharmacy-based needle and syringe programmes each month. Latest available data on usage of specialist syringe programmes (2012) indicate that they served more than 9 200 individual clients and distributed nearly 360 000 syringes.

Services provide a range of sterile injecting equipment and materials. All existing services provide different sizes and types of needle and syringe, as well as alcohol swabs and citric or acetic acid. Condoms, stericups or cookers and sterile water, non-toxic foil (for smoking heroin), syringe identifiers and tourniquets are available through the needle and syringe programmes. However, no service provides single-use injecting packs, crack pipes or straws.

In Ireland the HBV vaccine is recommended for several high-risk groups, including prisoners and injecting drug users.

On 9 August 2005 the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children introduced a new statutory instrument, the Medical Products (Prescription and Control of Supply) (Amendment) Regulations 2005. This permits the supply and administration of a number of medicinal products (including naloxone, for the management of respiratory depression secondary to a known or suspected narcotic overdose) by pre-hospital emergency care providers in specific conditions.

See the Harm reduction overview for Ireland for additional information.  

Drug markets and drug-law offences

The main source of information on drug offences in Ireland is the Central Statistics Office, while data on drug seizures come from the Garda Síochána and the Irish Customs Drug Law Enforcement. In 2014, however, the first comprehensive study of Irish illicit drug markets was published by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol and the Health Research Board. The study examines the nature and organisation of Irish drug markets, analyses the different factors that influence their development and also the impact of drug trafficking on local communities. It also assesses different interventions, particularly those involving law enforcement.

The total number of drug seizures increased between 2005 and 2007, decreased in 2008 and 2009 down to 5 494 seizures, and remained fairly stable for the period 2010–13. This trend can partly be explained by the trend in cannabis seizures. Although cannabis seizures account for the largest proportion of all drug seizures, the total number of cannabis seizures reported was fewer in 2012–13 than in 2005–08, but more than in 2009–10. Another explanation for the declining trend is the significant decline in cocaine and heroin seizures. Between 2001–07 the number of cocaine seizures showed a strong upward trend, increasing from 300 in 2001 to 1 749 in 2007. The quantity of cocaine seized has increased steadily since 2001, from 5 kg in 2001 to 1 752 kg in 2007. However, there has been a downward trend in the number of seizures since 2008. In 2010 a record low amount of 66 kg of cocaine was seized. The number of heroin seizures increased from 209 in 1995 to a peak of 1 698 in 2007, and declined thereafter to 690 in 2013. The quantity of heroin seized has fluctuated from year to year. Between 1995 and 2008 it increased significantly, from 6 kg to 207 kg, while in 2010 only 30 kg and in 2011 only 32 kg was seized. In 2012 and 2013, a total of 60 kg and 61 kg of heroin was seized, respectively. The number of cannabis resin seizures decreased between 2009 and 2013; however, the number of cannabis plant seizures has steadily increased from 2006 to 2012 and a record number of 11 601 plants were seized in 2012. In 2013, the number of herbal plants seizures fell, and the amounts seized halved (427 seizures and 6 309 plants).The number of herbal cannabis seizures almost doubled between 2009 and 2012, from 981 to 1 843, while in 2013 a total of 1 770 herbal cannabis seizures were recorded. The amount of seized herbal cannabis also doubled between 2010 and 2011; while some reduction was noted in 2012, it did not continue in 2013. Seizures of ecstasy-type stimulants decreased significantly between 2008 and 2010; however, in 2011–13 an upward trend in the number of seizures was noted. Moreover, in 2013 a record amount of more than 465 000 ecstasy tablets were seized in Ireland. Amphetamine-type stimulants are seized less frequently than other classic illicit substances and the amounts seized has been relatively stable over past years.

The vast majority of drug-law offences reported come under one of three sections of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977: Section 3 — possession of any controlled drug without due authorisation; Section 15 — possession of a controlled drug for the purpose of unlawful sale or supply; and Section 21 — obstructing the lawful exercise of a power conferred by the Act. Other offences regularly reported relate to the unlawful importation of controlled drugs contrary to Section 5; the use of forged prescriptions (Section 18); and the cultivation of cannabis plants (Section 17). Data reported by the Irish Central Statistics Office regarding drug-law offences in 2011 showed that there were a total of 11 250 drug-law offences, of which the majority were linked to possession for personal use related offences.

Look for Drug law offences in the Statistical bulletin for additional data.  

National drug laws

Possession of any controlled substance without due authorisation is an offence under the Misuse of Drugs Acts 1977 and 1984. The drugs to which the Acts apply are listed in their schedules, together with some generic definitions of families of substances. The legislation makes a distinction between possession for personal use and possession for sale or supply.

Penalties for possession for personal use depend on the type of drug (cannabis or other drugs) and on the penal proceedings, i.e. whether a summary conviction or a conviction on indictment. Possession of cannabis or cannabis resin for personal use is punishable by a fine on first or second conviction, but from a third offence onwards it incurs a fine and/or a term of imprisonment of up to one year for a summary conviction and up to three years for conviction on indictment. Possession in any other case can incur a penalty of imprisonment for up to one year and/or a fine on summary conviction and up to seven years for conviction on indictment. However, the Criminal Justice (Community Service) Act 2011 requires courts to consider imposing a community service order instead of a prison sentence in all cases where up to 12 months’ imprisonment might have been deemed appropriate. A Drug Treatment Court (DTC) based in Dublin has been running since 2001 and was last reviewed in 2010 by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; recommendations from that review have been implemented since then. The response to a more recent review of the DTC submitted to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in 2013 is currently awaited.

With regard to drug trafficking, different penalties can be imposed according to the circumstances of the offender, the type of drugs and the quantity involved, matters to be determined at trial with the appropriate sentence at the discretion of the judge. Possession for sale or supply can attract penalties of up to life imprisonment, with a presumptive mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years for the possession of drugs with a market value of at least EUR 13 000. In 2013 the Law Reform Commission, an independent statutory body established by the Law Reform Commission Act 1975, recommended repeal of this presumptive sentencing regime. The Criminal Justice Act 2006 included provisions in relation to a Drug Offenders Register, but eventually these were not implemented.

In response to new psychoactive substances being sold in so-called ‘head shops’, in 2010 more than 200 individual substances were brought under control with a Declaration Order under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977. Following the Declaration Order, the Criminal Justice (Psychoactive Substances) Act 2010 was passed to allow courts to intervene quickly and issue prohibition notices and orders for smuggling, trading, advertising and production of any harmful new psychoactive substances not specifically proscribed under the Misuse of Drugs Acts.

Go to the European Legal Database on Drugs (ELDD) for additional information.  

National drug strategy

Ireland’s National Drugs Strategy (Interim) 2009–16 was launched on 10 September 2009. The overall strategic aim is to continue to tackle the harm caused to individuals and society by the misuse of drugs, through a concerted focus on the five pillars of supply reduction, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and research. Five strategic aims are set out:

  1. To create a safer society through the reduction of the supply and availability of drugs for illicit use.
  2. To minimise problem drug use throughout society.
  3. To provide appropriate and timely substance treatment and rehabilitation services (including harm reduction services) tailored to individual needs.
  4. To ensure the availability of accurate, timely, relevant and comparable data on the extent and nature of problem substance use in Ireland.
  5. To have in place an efficient and effective framework for implementing the National Drugs Strategy 2009–16.

A set of specific objectives and key performance indicators are set out under each of the strategy’s five pillars. These are further elaborated through 63 actions spread across the different pillars, which list the agencies responsible for delivering them.

While the National Drugs Strategy is predominately focused on illicit drugs, Action 1 called for the establishment of a steering group to develop a national substance misuse strategy aimed at covering both illicit drugs and alcohol. The steering group’s report was launched on 7 February 2012 and proposals based on it are being developed by government.


Coordination mechanism in the field of drugs

At the inter-ministerial level, drug policy is one of several areas that fall within the scope of the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion, Children and Integration, which is chaired by the Taoiseach (Prime Minister). The Committee is attended by the Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy; this Minister is also responsible for the Equality portfolio, which is administered by the Department of Justice and Equality.

The Department of Health is responsible for the day-to-day operational coordination of drug policy. It carries out its work in this area through two units: the Drugs Policy Unit, which is tasked with the overall implementation of the National Drugs Strategy and manages the Oversight Forum on Drugs; and the Drugs Programme Unit, which is responsible for the management and administration of funds for the Drugs Initiatives Programmes carried out in Drugs Task Force areas. It is also in charge of the National Co-ordinating Committee for Drug and Alcohol Task Forces.

The Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy carries out the function of national drugs coordinator on the political level, while the head of the Drugs Policy Unit performs the role of coordinator at the administrative level.

The Oversight Forum on Drugs, which operates at the inter-ministerial level and meets four times a year, is tasked with providing high-level monitoring of the drugs strategy. It is chaired by the Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy and includes representatives from all sectors and bodies responsible for delivering the National Drugs Strategy.

The International Drug Issues Group is convened by the Drugs Policy Unit. The Group was established to coordinate Ireland’s participation in international drug policy issues. It meets on a quarterly basis and is comprised of representatives from the relevant government departments, agencies and statutory bodies.

The National Co-ordinating Committee for Drug and Alcohol Task Forces guides the work of the task forces and drives the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy 2009–16 at the local level. Its membership is also comprised of representatives from all sectors and bodies involved in delivering the National Drugs Strategy.

Local and regional drugs and alcohol task forces are responsible for implementing the National Drugs Strategy in the context of the needs identified at the regional/local level. Fourteen local drugs task forces are located in areas with significant drug problems. These task forces: (i) support and strengthen community-based responses to drug misuse through drawing up and implementing a local drug and alcohol strategy; (ii) identify and report on emerging issues and local responses; (iii) monitor, evaluate and assess the impact of funded projects and their continuing relevance to the local task force strategy; and (iv) recommend changes to the central funding allocations as deemed necessary. Each local drugs and alcohol task force has a chairperson and a coordinator. There are 10 regional drugs and alcohol task forces throughout Ireland, which have the same terms of reference as the local task forces.

Established on a non-statutory basis, the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol’s mandate is to conduct, commission and analyses research across the areas of prevalence, prevention, consequences and treatment. It may also advise the government on drug policy issues. The Committee is attached to the Department of Health and reports to the Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy. It has a broad membership drawn from the statutory, community, voluntary and academic research sectors.

Public expenditure

The intention to have drug-related public budgets has been mentioned in drug policy documents since the early 2000s. Estimates of executed expenditures are available after 2005. Currently, the priorities for drug-related public expenditure are set out in the National Drugs Strategy. The methods and the completeness of estimates have varied over time. However, recently the method to estimate drug-related public expenditure has been defined and it has become possible to compare drug-related public expenditure over time (1).

In 2013, total drug-related expenditure represented 0.14 % of gross domestic product (GDP), with 51.7 % for health, 26.7 % for public order and safety, 8.6 % for recreation, culture and religion, 7.3 % for education and 5.7 % for social protection initiatives (Table 1).

Trend analysis shows that between 2005 and 2008 labelled expenditures increased. Between 2009 and 2013, drug-related expenditure (deflated for inflation) fell by 16 %, probably as a result of the public austerity measures that followed the economic recession of 2008. However, the budget planned for 2014 shows a mild reversion of this trend and the amount of funds allocated for drug-related expenditure increased by 1.3 % (in nominal terms) compared to 2013.

Table 1: Drug-related public expenditure, 2013
COFOG classification (a) Expenditure (thousand EUR) % of total(b)
(a) According to the United Nations Classification of the Functions of Government (COFOG) Eurostat data sources: http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/ (general) and http://unstats.un.org/unsd/cr/registry/regcst.asp?Cl=4
(b) EMCDDA estimations.
Direct costs (labelled expenditure)    


 122.6 51.7
Public order and safety 63.3 26.7
Recreation, culture and religion  20.3 8.6
Education 17.5 7.3
Social protection 13.4 5.7
237.2 100.0
% of GDP
0.14 %     
  • (1) Some of the funds allocated by governments for expenditure on tasks related to drugs are identified as such in the budget (‘labelled’). Often, however, the bulk of drug-related expenditure is not identified (‘unlabelled’).

Drug-related research

Research is one of the four pillars of Ireland’s National Drugs Strategy, and has two main objectives: (i) to make data available on the extent of drug misuse amongst all marginalised groups; and (ii) to gain greater understanding of the factors that contribute to the misuse of drugs. The areas of prevalence, prevention, treatment and consequences of problem drug use were listed as priorities and account for most of the main projects in this area. Funding is mainly made available by governmental sources, while research in this area is mainly undertaken by the national focal point (Health Research Board), the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol and some university departments. The national focal point coordinates two main reporting systems, the National Drugs Library, a newsletter and a website (www.drugsandalcohol.ie) that hosts a repository of Irish drug and alcohol research and policy documents. Several national scientific journals contribute to disseminating drug-related research findings. Recent drug-related studies mentioned in the 2014 Irish National report mainly focused on aspects related to drug-use prevalence, the consequences of drug use and responses to the drug situation. Research on supply and markets was also mentioned.

See Drug-related research for more detailed information. 

Key national figures and statistics

b Break in time series.

e Estimated.

p Eurostat provisional value.

1 Gross domestic product (GDP) is a measure of economic activity. It is defined as the value of all goods and services produced less the value of any goods or services used in their creation. The volume index of GDP per capita in Purchasing Power Standards (PPS) is expressed in relation to the European Union (EU-27) average set to equal 100. If the index of a country is higher than 100, this country's level of GDP per head is higher than the EU average and vice versa.

2  Expenditure on social protection contains: benefits, which consist of transfers, in cash or in kind to households and individuals to relieve them of the burden of a defined set of risks or needs.

3 Unemployment rates represent unemployed persons as a percentage of the labour force. Unemployed persons comprise persons aged 15 to 74 who were: (a) without work during the reference week; (b) currently available for work; (c) actively seeking work.

4 Situation of penal institutions on 1 September, 2012.

5 Share of persons aged 0+ with an equivalent disposable income below the at-risk-of-poverty threshold, which is set at 60 % of the national median equivalised disposable income (after social transfers).

  Year Ireland EU (28 countries) Source
Population  2014 4 605 501
506 824 509 ep Eurostat
Population by age classes 15–24  2014 11.4 % p 11.3 % bep Eurostat
25–49 37.3 %  p 34.7 % bep
50–64 16.7 % p 19.9 % bep
GDP per capita in PPS (Purchasing Power Standards) 1  2013 130 100 Eurostat
Total expenditure on social protection (% of GDP) 2  2012 32.5 % p 29.5 % p Eurostat
Unemployment rate 3  2014 11.3 % 10.2 % Eurostat
Unemployment rate of population aged under 25 years  2014 23.9 % 22.2 % Eurostat
Prison population rate (per 100 000 of national population) 4  2013 88.5  : Council of Europe, SPACE I-2013
At risk of poverty rate 5  2013 14.1 % 16.6 %  SILC

Data sheet — key statistics on the drug situation

        EU range      
  Year   Country data Min. Max. Average Rank Reporting Countries
Problem opioid use (rate/1 000) :   : 0.2 10.7      
All clients entering treatment (%) 2013   51.3% 6% 93%      
New clients entering treatment (%) 2013   29.7% 2% 81%      
Purity — heroin brown (%) :   : 6% 42%      
Price per gram — heroin brown (EUR) :   : EUR 25 EUR 158      
Prevalence of drug use — schools (%) 2011   3.0% 1% 5%      
Prevalence of drug use — young adults (%) 2010–11   2.8% 0% 4% 2%    
Prevalence of drug use — all adults (%) 2010–11   1.5% 0% 2% 1% 24 26
All clients entering treatment (%) 2013   7.8% 0% 39%      
New clients entering treatment (%) 2013   9.2% 0% 40%      
Purity (%) :   : 20% 75%      
Price per gram (EUR) :   : EUR 47 EUR 103      
Prevalence of drug use — schools (%) 2011   2.0% 1% 7%      
Prevalence of drug use — young adults (%) 2010–11   0.8% 0% 3% 1%    
Prevalence of drug use — all adults (%) 2010–11   0.4% 0% 1% 1% 11 25
All clients entering treatment (%) 2013   0.6% 0% 70%      
New clients entering treatment (%) 2013   0.9% 0% 22%      
Purity (%) :   : 5% 71%      
Price per gram (EUR) :   : EUR 8 EUR 63      
Prevalence of drug use — schools (%) 2011   2.0% 1% 4%      
Prevalence of drug use — young adults (%) 2010–11   0.9% 0% 3% 1%    
Prevalence of drug use — all adults (%) 2010–11   0.5% 0% 2% 1% 15 25
All clients entering treatment (%) 2013   0.5% 0% 2%      
New clients entering treatment (%) 2013   0.8% 0% 4%      
Purity (mg of MDMA base per unit) :   : 26 mg 144 mg      
Price per tablet (EUR) :   : EUR 3 EUR 24      
Prevalence of drug use — schools (%) 2011   18.0% 5% 42%      
Prevalence of drug use — young adults (%) 2010–11   10.3% 0% 22% 12%    
Prevalence of drug use — all adults (%) 2010–11   6.0% 0% 11% 6% 20 27
All clients entering treatment (%) 2013   28.9% 3% 63%      
New clients entering treatment (%) 2013   47.0% 5% 80%      
Potency — herbal (%) :   : 2% 13%      
Potency — resin (%) :   : 3% 22%      
Price per gram — herbal (EUR) :   : EUR 4 EUR 25      
Price per gram — resin (EUR) :   : EUR 3 EUR 21      
Prevalence of problem drug use                
Problem drug use (rate/1 000) :   : 2.0 10.0      
Injecting drug use (rate/1 000) :   : 0.2 9.2      
Drug-related infectious diseases/deaths                
HIV infections newly diagnosed (rate/million) 2013   3.9 0.0 54.5      
HIV prevalence (%) 2010   6.0% 0% 49%      
HCV prevalence (%) 2010   41.5% 14% 84%      
Drug-related deaths (rate/million) 2012   39.4 1.5 84.1      
Health and social responses                
Syringes distributed 2013   360 041 124 406 9 457 256      
Clients in substitution treatment 2013   9 640 180 172 513      
Treatment demand                
All clients 2013   8 684 289 101 753      
New clients 2013   3 470 19 35 229      
All clients with known primary drug 2013   8 684 287 99 186      
New clients with known primary drug 2013   3 470 19 34 524      
Drug law offences                
Number of reports of offences :   : 429 426 707      
Offences for use/possession :   : 58 397 713      


See the explanatory notes for further information on the methods and definitions.

Only the most recent data are available for each key statistic. Data before 2006 were excluded.

Additional footnotes

Additional sources of national information

In addition to the information provided above, you might find the following resources useful sources of national data.


Page last updated: Tuesday, 07 July 2015