Prevalence of Drug Use and Gambling in Ireland and drug use in NI – 2014/15

Date published: 08 November 2016

The Department of Health has published key facts on drug prevalence in the north of Ireland.

Drug Prevalence in Northern Ireland

The fact sheet presents first results from the Drug Prevalence Survey 2014/15.  It includes analyses of the main types of illegal and prescription drug use over the last month, last year and lifetime of respondents. 

Key Findings

The Drug Prevalence Survey records drug use across three prevalence periods, over the last month, over the last year and throughout the respondents’ lifetime.

  • more than a quarter of people surveyed (28%) reported having used an illegal drug during their lifetime, with 6% having done so during the previous year and 3% during the last month
  • Cannabis was the most commonly reported illegal drug with a quarter of respondents (25%) reporting having ever used the drug, 5% reporting recent use and 3% reporting current use
  • after cannabis, the most commonly reported drugs ever used were ecstasy (10%), poppers (7%) and cocaine powder (7%)
  • a small proportion of respondents reported lifetime, last year and last month usage of New Psychoactive Substances, crack and heroin.
  • over a third of males (35%) and a fifth of females (20%) had ever taken an illegal drug.  Lifetime prevalence for cannabis for males (32%) was almost twice that for females (17%)
  • a third of younger respondents (aged 15-34 years) (34%) and almost a quarter of older respondents (aged 35-64 years) (23%) had ever taken an illegal drug
  • almost a quarter of respondents (24%) reported ever taking anti-depressants, while over a fifth reported taking other opiates (22%) and sedatives or tranquillisers (21%).  Females and older respondents were the most likely to have taken these drugs.
  • a fifth of respondents (20%) had used e-cigarettes at least once in their lifetime with 6% currently using them
  • there was a significant increase between 2010/11 and 2014/15 in the proportion of respondents who had taken other opiates across all prevalence periods
  • there was a significant decrease between 2010/11 and 2014/15 for last year prevalence of amphetamines and new psychoactive substances
  • since the previous survey in 2010/11 there has been a significant increase in both last year prevalence and last month prevalence for anti-depressants
  • between 2010/11 and 2014/15, there were significant decreases for tobacco use in lifetime, last year and last month prevalence periods
  • current use of alcohol decreased between 2010/11 and 2014/15

Notes to editors: 

1. The 2014/15 Drug Prevalence Survey in the north and south of Ireland was commissioned jointly by the then Department of Health Social Services and Public Safety and the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol in the south of Ireland. 

2. Joint bulletins with the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol (NACDA) in south of Ireland are planned for publication.

3. This survey has previously been conducted in 2002/03, 2006/07 and 2010/11.

4. The questionnaire and methodology for this general population survey were based on best practice guidelines drawn up by the EMCDDA. The questionnaires were administered through face-to-face interviews (with Computer Assisted Personal Interviews (CAPI)) with respondents aged between 15 and 64 years and who are normally resident in households in the north of Ireland. Therefore persons outside these age ranges, or who do not normally live in private households, have not been included in the survey (for example prisons, nursing homes etc.).

5. Fieldwork for the survey was carried out between October 2014 and May 2015 and the final achieved sample was 2,511.  The response rate for the survey was 68%.

6. In the north of Ireland, the achieved sample was weighted by gender, age and Health and Social Care Trust area to maximise its representativeness of the population.

7. Further information on drug prevalence in the north of Ireland is available at:

Public Health Information and Research Branch
Department of Health
Annexe 2, Castle Buildings
Stormont, BT4 3SQ

Tel: 028 90 522607

Fax: 028 90 523288



8. Media enquiries about this press release to DoH Press Office on 028 9052 0505, or out of office hours contact to Duty Press Officer via pager number 07623 974383 and your call will be returned. Follow us on Twitter @healthdpt

Share this page

Back to top