Nicki Killeen from the HSE National Social Inclusion Office tells Hot Press why they’re especially keen to hear from women and those who pre-Covid were engaged in nighttime activities.
The HSE is delighted with the number of adults who’ve been participating in the EU Web Survey on Drugs, which will help shape the future of drug policies and interventions here.
Targeted at those aged 18 and over, who have used drugs in the last twelve months, the anonymous survey asks people about the types of drugs taken and how and why they use them.
“We’ve always looked to the UK for their studies on drug trends and certain populations such as among nightlife cohorts, but the data from this survey will directly tell us what effect Covid-19 has had on patterns of drug use in Ireland,” says Nicki Killeen from the HSE National Social Inclusion Office. “We’re getting lots of input from people who often don’t feature in research because they’re not receiving treatment. These would include music fans, members of the LGBTQI community and other people who pre-pandemic would have been engaged with nighttime activities. The survey will give us a snapshot of what ways Covid has impacted on this more recreational drug use.”
Nicki stresses the importance of the survey being gender balanced.
“We know that drug use is no longer a male dominated space,” she reflects. “We know that more women are using drugs – particularly MDMA, which in the last population survey showed a 115% jump in lifetime prevalence of use. Some evidence suggests that women may be more at risk from the harms of MDMA, so we need to look at that. There’s a new realm of females who aren’t considered vulnerable populations and aren't receiving treatment and are using drugs for different reasons like socialisation and it being part of certain cultures. Web surveys could encourage more women to talk openly about what drugs they use and why. We are hoping to hear from more females.”
There are two areas of the EU Drug Survey, which are specific to Ireland.
“One is on nitrous oxide, which gained quite a bit of attention in the media,” Nicki explains. “Most people, I imagine, saw those little silver canisters it comes in discarded on the streets. We want to determine whether this is a lasting trend and how many people are using it, why and where. The other is psilocybin mushrooms. There’s been discussion regarding it in other countries; now we want to find out how prevalent its use is in Ireland and for what reasons people are taking it. Are they microdosing and if so, again, why? This is going to give us some unique insights into areas that haven’t been touched on before.”
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For information and support relating to your own or someone else’s drug use, go to http://drugs.ie or Freephone the HSE Helpline on 1800 459 459, which is open Monday-Friday from 9.30am-5.30pm. You can also email email@example.com.