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Findings from the National Student Drugs Survey, due to be published in full in September, show that in less than two hours, students can gain access to potentially harmful prescription medicines.
Around 6 per cent reported using non-prescribed opioids, codeine and/or morphine, while almost 12 per cent had used Xanax or zopiclone in the past 12 months. Over 13 per cent had used diazepam D5 or D10 in the past 12 months.
Approximately 44 per cent of respondents had used MDMA in the past 12 months and over 48 per cent had used cannabis.
More than 2,700 third-level students across Ireland responded to the survey, conducted between October and December 2014.
Mr Tim Bingham, co-author of the survey and independent drugs researcher, also warned that there are huge amounts of counterfeit medicines in circulation.
He cited ‘fat-burners’ or image-enhancing drugs as being of particular concern and warned that they are putting lives at risk. The data gathered by the study suggests there may be a link between Christmas and the use of fat-burners, but Mr Bingham stressed further research is required.
According to Mr Bingham, the interchangeability of the drug marketplace makes it difficult to curb the use of counterfeit and falsified medicines.
“It’s a very difficult issue and a catch 22 situation. If a particular substance is taken off the street there will be something else to replace it. We need to ask what is going to replace this product,’ he explained.
For instance, he noted that pregabalin, an anti-seizure drug, is now becoming a substitute for benzodiazepines in other jurisdictions, but not necessarily in Ireland yet.
In May, the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) announced a young student had died after taking diet pills sourced online, which contained dinitrophenol (DNP).
See feature ‘Fake medicines, real dangers’