A new Eurobarometer study on young people and drugs shows that Ireland has the highest number of young people who have used cannabis in the past year (28%), compared to an EU average of 17%.
Only 58% of young Irish people have never taken cannabis, third lowest in Europe and well below the EU average of 69%.
Furthermore, just 46% of young people consider regular cannabis use to be high risk, compared to an EU average of 63%.
Consumption of 'legal highs' among Ireland's 15-24 year olds has meanwhile increased from 16% to 22% over the past three years.
On the International Day Against Drug Abuse, the European Commission, who published the study, has renewed its commitment to taking firm action to protecting young people from the dangers of 'legal highs'.
EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reading said: "A borderless internal market means we need common EU rules to tackle this problem."
The survey also shows that:
- 72% of young Irish people think it would be very or fairly easy to personally obtain cannabis within 24 hours, well above the EU average of 58%
- Young Irish people are most likely to have used legal highs, at 22% compared to an EU average of 8%.
- Ireland has the third lowest number of young people who think that new substances should be banned under any circumstances, at 29% compared to an EU average of 35%
- Young Irish people are also less likely to consider regular alcohol use to be high risk, at 42% compared to an EU average of 57%.
The study also identified the three most effective ways for public authorities to reduce drug problems for young Irish people are:
- Tough measures against drug dealers and traffickers (49%)
- Offering more sport, entertainment and cultural activities for young people (44%)
- Information and prevention campaigns (37%)