CANNABIS has now overtaken alcohol as the dominant problem drug for Irish youngsters.
A treatment centre which specialises in youngsters with addiction problems found that 62pc of admissions were linked to cannabis abuse.
Leading Irish addiction treatment centre, Aiseiri, warned in their 2013 annual report that the problem of poly-drug or multiple drug abuse is now increasing at an alarming rate amongst youngsters.
Meanwhile, alcohol remains the primary abuse substance for older people in Irish addiction treatment centres, with 73pc of adult admissions linked directly to alcohol abuse.
Aiseiri, which operates treatment centres in Tipperary, Wexford and Kilkenny, treated a total of 444 people in 2013.
Their annual report found that the Aislinn treatment centre in Kilkenny - which provides services for young people - had 74 cannabis cases compared to just 20 for adults.
The opposite was true on centres for adults in Tipperary and Wexford which had 226 alcohol addiction admissions compared to 23 for cannabis.
"If we are to tackle abuse, if we are to educate, prevent and change addiction behaviour, we have to resource services for families," Aiseiri chief executive Paul Conlon said.
"While there have been some welcome developments in drug and alcohol policy, we still have no centralised structure or fund to support residential treatment, which we specialise in," he said.
"While the State's policy has moved towards treatment in the community - a move which we welcome - there remains a unique role for residential treatment as part of a comprehensive rehabilitation strategy."
He said it was critical for parents to work with their children to try to postpone drinking until they are 18 years or older.
"I know it is difficult but if we can do that we will help avoid a lot of problems in the long run," he said.
UNICEF found that 48pc of Irish adults admitted to first having gotten drunk before the age of 15 - with alcohol the key to introducing other addictive substances.
Cork emergency consultant Dr Chris Luke warned that despite Ireland's growing drug abuse problem, alcohol remains the so-called 'gateway drug'.
But he said there are mounting concerns over people now presenting with multi-drug addictions and the advent of such lethal substances as crystal meth.
"The reality is that crystal meth the worst type of drug out there. It is so dangerous it is on par with crack cocaine," he said.
A special National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) study found that 72pc of 18-24 years admitted to binge drinking on a monthly basis.
It also found 24pc of 18 to 24-year-olds admitted they had suffered harm as a direct consequence of their drinking.
NACD found in a sample of 15-64 year old adults, that 25pc had used cannabis, with 9pc of those who admitted using cannabis on a regular basis found to have addiction issues.