Drugs 'used by 82pc of Irish college students'
Just 2pc of Irish third-level students have never consumed alcohol.
The revelation came in a hard-hitting new survey on the alcohol and drug use habits of Irish students.
The survey found that 82pc of Irish students have tried illegal drugs, 98pc have consumed alcohol, 82pc have tried cigarettes or tobacco products and 50pc have tried e-cigarettes.
Its findings were released as Junior Justice Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin attended a special 'Help Not Harm' (HNH) event in Cork on the issues surrounding drug use in Ireland and drug decriminalisation.
The Labour TD is one of those responsible for the revised Misuse of Drugs Act which is currently going through the Oireachtas.
The new regulations will, if enacted, allow for the creation of special medically-supervised injection centres for addicts.
Ireland is also examining the Portuguese model of tackling drugs which involved decriminalising possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use in 2001.
But this was done in tandem with massively improving health education and awareness campaigns about the dangers posed by the use of addictive substances.
HNH official Graham de Barra said it was vital that a multi-stakeholder approach be taken to the issue of drugs in Ireland.
"What is really important is starting a national debate on these issues and including everyone in that debate," he said.
"This is all part of how we are going to achieve the right model that will fit the current problem. The reality in Ireland is that the current approach has failed."
"(More than) 80pc of students have tried drugs at least once in their lifetime and, clearly, criminality is not deterring drug use in Ireland. What it might be doing is stigmatising people and preventing people from getting help."
The group behind the student survey said there are positive aspects to the findings including that students are increasingly taking precautions around any drug use.
For the first time, the survey indicated that some Irish drug users are now purchasing special kits to test the drugs that they intend to use.
The study, conducted by Tim Bingham of the National Student Drug Survey, Dr Colin O'Driscoll and Graham de Barra, involved more than 3,000 students.
Of the 3,000 responses from all Irish colleges and universities, 2,700 were found to be valid and were compiled into the overall survey findings.
"These are very significant findings," said Mr de Barra. "We were very surprised by the illegal drugs finding - we did not believe it would be so high."