Page last updated at 15:51 GMT, Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Cocaine use rife in young adults

cocaine generic. Science Photo Library
Many users take cocaine with alcohol

More than one in 10 young adults surveyed about drugs in Northern Ireland have admitted trying cocaine.

The Health Promotion Agency spoke to 735 people aged 18 to 35. One in three said they had tried drugs and 14% had taken cocaine.

Chief executive of the Health Promotion Agency Dr Brian Gaffney said cocaine use was on the increase in Northern Ireland.

He said it was the third most commonly used illegal drug.

"Health Promotion Agency research found drugs to be widely available here and that drug taking was seen by many as similar to having a drink when socialising and part of a typical night out," he said.

"Those who had ever taken drugs or had used cocaine specifically were less likely to accept the risks associated with the drug, such as chest pains, heart problems, brain haemorrhage or sudden death, or that mixing alcohol with cocaine was even more dangerous."

More than a quarter (26%) of those surveyed indicated that they would probably take drugs in the next year, whilst almost half of cocaine users said they would be likely to take the drug again in the next 12 months.

The research indicated that knowledge of the health risks of cocaine was very low.

Key findings
68% said drugs are easy to find
62% said drug-taking had become similar to having a drink.
59% have friends who tried cocaine at least once
43% believe cocaine gives confidence
36% believe cocaine is glamorous

The survey also revealed that 77% of cocaine users take the drug with alcohol, with 31% taking it with cannabis.

It indicated that the most common setting for using cocaine was house parties (58%) followed by clubs (17%) and pubs (8%).

More than a half of those surveyed said that feeling happy or "buzzing" was a benefit of using cocaine.

Some 47% said that the risks of drug taking were greatly exaggerated and that people are more in control when on cocaine than on other drugs such as ecstasy or speed.

Dr Gaffney added: "The research findings will be used to develop a resource to highlight the potential problems of cocaine to current users and those contemplating using cocaine.

"The focus of this resource will be on supporting young adults not to take cocaine in the first place."

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