Over a quarter of people in Ireland, north and south, have used illegal drugs at some stage in their lives, according to a new survey.
Research released by the Department of Health on the prevalence of drug use in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland found about 27% of people surveyed in each jurisdiction admitted to taking illegal substances.
The most commonly-used drug was cannabis, with 24% of those interviewed in the north, and 25% in the south, confirming having taken the illegal drug. The information was gathered through face-to-face interviews with respondents aged 15-64 and was carried out between October 2010 and May this year.
Those interviewed in the Republic reported that, after cannabis, the most commonly-used drugs were ecstasy, cocaine and magic mushrooms (each 7%), followed by amphetamines (5%), LSD and poppers (each 4%). Less than 1% reported having ever used crack (0.6%), heroin (0.8%) or methadone (0.5%).
The lifetime prevalence rate for any illegal drugs was highest among those aged 25-34 years (42%), followed by the 35-44 (29%) and 15-24 (27%) age groups.
North of the border, 5% of respondents reported using cannabis in the last year and 3% of respondents reported using it in the last month.
After cannabis, the most commonly-used illegal drugs in Northern Ireland were poppers and ecstasy (each 9%), cocaine powder (6%), amphetamines and magic mushrooms (each 6%), LSD (5%), and solvents (4%). Around one in three males (32%) and one in five females (22%) reported lifetime use of any illegal drug.
The Northern Ireland survey also showed that nearly two-fifths of young adults (15-34), compared with a fifth (20%) of older adults (35-64 years), reported ever using any illegal drug.
Around a fifth of respondents reported having ever used sedatives and tranquillisers (21%) and anti-depressants (22%).
A total of 24% of females compared with 17% of males had ever used sedatives and tranquillisers, and 28% of females compared with 15% of males reported having ever used anti-depressants.