Two-thirds of mental health drug patients used cannabis

Two thirds of drug-misuse patients in the health service in Northern Ireland last year had taken cannabis, new figures show.

From a total of a total of 2,229 people presenting to health services here with problem drug misuse, almost 66% were cannabis users.

The figures are contained in the Department of Health’s Northern Ireland drug misuse database.   Cannabis was by far the most commonly-used substance amongst problem drug-misuse patients here, according to the database.

Benzodiazepines, a class of drug with a host of medical uses that is commonly prescribed to patients suffering from anxiety, was the next most commonly used drug with just over 37% reporting having taken benzodiazepines.

The next on the list is cocaine with more than a third of those in the database (almost 35%) having taken it.  That represents a significant increase in the number of people who said they took cocaine. Last year it was 25%.

The use of ecstasy dropped substantially, from 26% last year to 10% this year, while heroin use has also fallen, from 13% to 10%.

One-in-20 said they had injected themselves with drugs.

The database also shows that most (60%) of those presenting for treatment took more than one drug. A fifth (23%) took two drugs, while another fifth (19%) said they took at least four different drugs.

Almost half (46%) said they took stimulants; this type of drug includes cocaine and amphetamines.  Just over a quarter (26%) said they used at least one opioid analgesic drug – a class of drugs used in medicine to relieve pain, that also includes the illegal drug heroin.  A fifth (20%) of all those who said they used these type of drugs also said it was their “main drug”.   The figures also showed a clear gender divide with males making up 79% of patients.

The Department of Health say they hold “information relating to 2,340 individuals that presented to drug misuse treatment services in 2015/16”.  The figures quoted in this article are based on 2,229 of those individuals who agreed to be included in the database.

Tobacco and alcohol misuse is excluded.

Source:   23rd December 2016

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