One in 10 men living in Ireland has tried cocaine at some stage in their life, a cross-border poll has revealed.
But people are using the drug less since the economic boom years, some because of its cost and others because of health worries.
Orla Dempsey, researcher with the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol (NACDA), said men and women were kicking the habit for different reasons.
“The main reason for stopping among men and young people is that they can no longer afford to use cocaine,” she said. “Whereas older adults and females just don’t want to use it any more. That was their reason for stopping.”
The study of of 7,669 people aged between 15 and 64, in the Republic and Northern Ireland, found that 7% of the island’s population had tried cocaine at least once.
This figure was up slightly since the last poll a few years ago, but that it is to be expected in an ageing population.
There was a small drop in the number who had tried cocaine in the last year (2%) while current users - those who had taken it within the last month - remained stable at 0.5%.
“For recent use or those that have used in the last month, it is declining,” said Ms Dempsey. “And people are now using less frequently.”
Men (10%) were more likely than women (4%) to have taken cocaine at some stage in their lives, with twice as many men (2%) as women (1%) reporting using cocaine in the last year.
Most recent users said they got the drug at a friend’s house (39%), followed by at a bar or nightclub (37%), a street or park (12%), or ordering it over the telephone (11%). Another 1% said they got the drugs at school or college.
Seven out of 10 said they could easily get cocaine within 24 hours.
The NACDA report also shows that among the general population, cocaine use was most prevalent among those with a university degree or third-level education.
The average user first took the drug at the age of 21.
The poll was carried out between 2010 and 2011.