The NWRDATF is responsible for the entire North West region, extending from the Inishowen Peninsula in the North East of Donegal southward along the border with Northern Ireland to Blacklion, County Cavan, and comprising all of counties Sligo, Leitrim, and Donegal, as well as the North West corner of Cavan in the vicinity of Blacklion.

It depends on what we mean by addiction. Psychological Dependency can happen with any drug (or anything else for that matter). This means that the person using drugs feels they cannot cope or face the world unless they are under the influence of drugs. This form of dependency has more to do with the people using the drug rather than about the particular drug they are taking. In contrast people can only become physically dependent on certain drugs. Physical Dependency results from the repeated, heavy use of drugs like heroin, tranquillisers and even alcohol. Heavy and continual use of these drugs can change the body chemistry so that if someone does not get a repeat dose they suffer physical withdrawal symptoms – the shakes, flu like effects. They have to keep taking the drug just to stop themselves from feeling ill. An interesting fact is that continual use of drugs like cannabis, ecstasy and LSD does not result in physical dependency, even though people may become psychologically dependent. With other drugs – and particularly stimulant drugs such as cocaine, crack, amphetamine and the nicotine in cigarettes – there is debate over the extent that physical dependence can occur.

The most commonly used mood altering drug used in Ireland is caffeine – contained in tea, coffee, many soft drinks, colas, some confectioneries, and is also included in many medicines and available in over-the-counter stimulant preparations such as Pro Plus. Apart from medicines in general the next most commonly used drug is alcohol, followed by the nicotine in cigarettes and other tobacco based products.

When it comes to illegal and other socially unacceptable drugs on the menu, the drugs that are most likely tried compared with those that are least likely tried are as follows:-

  • Cannabis
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines
  • Nitrites/ poppers
  • Cocaine
    Legal Highs
  • Ecstasy
  • LSD
  • Magic mushrooms
  • Solvents (aerosols, gases and glues)
  • Minor tranquillisers (not prescribed)
  • Heroin and crack cocaine

This list is subject to change with different trends.

Despite all the concerns about illicit drug use and the attendant lifestyle by young people, it is probably still the case that the lives of most young people are centred on school, home and employment and that most drug use is restricted to the use of tobacco and alcohol.

Enjoyment: the evidence of drug use within youth suggests that the experience of substances is often pleasurable rather than negative and damaging. So probably the main reason why young people take drugs is that they enjoy them.
There are also the Enviromental Factors , Many young people live in communities which suffer from multiple deprivation, with high unemployment, low quality housing and where the surrounding infra-structure of local services is fractured and poorly resourced. In such communities drug supply and use often thrive as an alternative economy often controlled by powerful criminal groups. As well as any use that might be associated with the stress and boredom of living in such communities, young people with poor job prospects recognise the financial advantages and the status achievable through the business of small scale supply of drugs.
However, drug use is certainly not restricted to areas of urban deprivation. As the press stories of expulsions from private schools and drug use in rural areas show, illicit drug use is an aspect of our society from top to bottom and in all regions.

Curiosity: Most young people are naturally curious and want to experiment with different experiences. For some, drugs are a good conversation point, they are interesting to talk about and fascinate everyone.
Some young people will use drugs as a defence mechanism specifically to ease the trauma and pain of unsatisfactory relationships and the physical and emotional abuse arising from unhappy home lives. Such young people will often come to the attention of the school. If these problems can be addressed, then if drugs are involved they can become less of a problem.

Natural Rebellion: whether or not part of any particular subset of youth culture, young people like to be exclusive, own something that is personal to themselves and consciously or unconsciously drug use may act as a means of defiance to provoke adults into a reaction.

Availability is often the cause of considerable pressure to use legal substances. Alcohol and pain-relieving drugs are regularly advertised on television. The advertising of tobacco products is now banned on television, but recent research from Strathclyde University published by the Cancer Research Campaign concluded that cigarette advertising does encourage young people to start smoking and reinforces the habit among existing smokers.
Despite legislation, children and teenagers have no problems obtaining alcohol and tobacco from any number of retail outlets. Breweries refurbish pubs with young people in mind, bringing in music, games, more sophisticated decor and so on while the general acceptance of these drugs is maintained through sports sponsorship, promotions and other marketing strategies.Obviously, the illicit market is more discreet, but those determined to experiment appear to have little trouble obtaining drugs.

Cost is often a factor that effects drug use and especially as to which drug is used. Cannabis sufficient for a few joints would cost about € 5, while an LSD trip would also cost around € 5. In terms of how long the effects last, this compares very favourably with an average price for a pint of lager of around € 5. By the same token, ecstasy of highly variable quality is still selling for up to € 15 a tablet and many drug users have been voting with their wallets and turning to cheaper drugs such as LSD and amphetamine.

Nearly half of school-going children have never had a drink and the number of teenagers under 15 years experimenting with alcohol has dropped. Research shows that some teenagers start to drink because they wrongly think everyone is doing it. Most teenagers only experiment with alcohol or use it for recreation. However, some can use alcohol in a way that is problematic and drinking is linked to suicide. The legal age for drinking alcohol is 18, the reality, however, is that many teenagers drink regularly before the age of 18.

What are the risks?
Teenage drinking carries risks and even experimenting with alcohol on one occasion can create problems for teenagers. This is because teenagers are still growing and developing. Teenage bodies, minds and emotions are still maturing, so they are very vulnerable to the immediate effects of alcohol.

Teenagers need clear messages from parents that underage drinking is unacceptable. This reduces the risk of problem drinking in adult life. Therefore it is vital they need to know the facts about alcohol.

Teenagers and alcohol
Children begin to develop an awareness of alcohol at a very early age through:

  • television
  • advertising
  • their family and
  • their community

Research shows that by the time a child reaches five years of age, they have already formed basic attitudes and opinions about alcohol. Teenagers learn about alcohol through:

  • their own experiences and observing the effects of drinking on family, friends and community.

Why do teenagers drink?

  • They are curious
  • They want to be accepted and belong
  • Their friends are doing it
  • It makes them feel older
  • They want to rebel
  • They are bored

Teenagers also drink to:

  • celebrate special events (exam results, birthdays, Debs)
  • feel more confident
  • relax
  • reduce stress (exam stress, relationship pressures)
  • cope with sadness, unhappiness, rejection or low self esteem or
  • get drunk!

Teenagers may use alcohol because they want to move away from being a child and see drinking as a sign of maturity. As parents, you need to challenge the view that you need to drink to be an adult.

  • Spending time with friends in unsupervised settings
  • Friends drinking
  • Over-exposure to adult drinking
  • High-risk drinking by older brothers and sisters
  • Being involved in problem behaviour at an early age
  • Living in a disadvantaged neighbourhood
  • Skipping school
  • Parental separation
  • Having more money and greater spending power

We need to be aware of what may encourage teenagers to drink so that we can take as many steps as possible to delay teenage drinking.

  • Clear messages from parents that underage drinking is unacceptable
  • Clear example from parents about how to drink responsibly
  • Praise and encouragement from parents
  • Strong relationships with their family, friends and teachers
  • Good social skills
  • Involvement in school, youth groups, sports or church activities

What Are the Low Risk Drinking Guidelines?
There are no safe levels of drinking among teenagers but the low risk weekly limits for adults are:

  • Up to 14 standard drinks in a week for a women, and
  • Up to 21 standard drinks in a week for men.

Drinks should be spaced out over the week, not consumed in one sitting. Drinking more than safe levels may cause harm. It’s important to remember, drinks measures are not always the same. What you get in a pub and what you pour for yourself could be very different.

Binge Drinking
Binge drinking is a term to describe an occasion when we drink too much. It is when we have more than 6 or more standard drinks. It is a form of harmful drinking that is likely to increase our risk of accidents, injuries, violence and poisoning.