Like men elsewhere, Irish men are more likely to be binge drinkers and users of illicit drugs than women. Irish men are twice as likely to use cannabis, ecstasy or cocaine. Moreover, Irish men are more likely to experience problematic drug and alcohol use, and report difficulties in their lives as a result of their drug and alcohol use. Irish men account for approximately 80% of those in drug treatment centres / services and accounted for 72% of all drug related mortalities in Ireland during 2011.
However, there are notable changes in women’s use of illicit drugs and it appears that illicit drug use is increasing among women. Yet it is only within certain contexts or in relation to specific types of drug use where the gender gap between men and women is narrow. Examples of this can be found within certain subcultural groups, such as, the dance / rave scene. Age is also significant in relation to this gender gap. The gap tends to be narrowest during late adolescence and early adulthood but does not extend beyond this.
Most of what is known about illicit drug use in Ireland relates to the availability of certain drugs and general patterns of drug use. Health impacts and social consequences of drug use have been widely researched. There are obviously a multitude of reasons why people use drugs. However, often the pleasurability of the drug experience is ignored as a motivation. People commonly take drugs because they enjoy how it makes them feel, yet policy makers take the perspective that there is something deficient or wrong with drug users. Many everyday preconceptions about drug users are untrue. Drug use transcends social class. Although there is a correlation between problematic drug use and social deprivation, recreational illicit drug use tends to occur more commonly among affluent populations. In fact in Ireland, cannabis use is most common among those in professional / managerial positions.
Despite the glaringly obvious fact that men dominate in the use of illicit drugs, in Ireland (and many other places) there has been no research into male illicit drug users as men. Men are most visibly represented in drug statistics, yet this dominance has resulted in their invisibility as men. There is a significant lack of understanding as to why men are the predominant users of illicit drugs in Ireland, and elsewhere. What meanings do men attach to their recreational use of illicit drugs? Do illicit drugs fulfil functions other than pleasurability etc?
I want to begin to try and answer these types of questions. My research seeks to examine young men’s experiences of recreational illicit drug use, and how their drug use contributes to their production or maintenance of specific masculinities. In essence I want to uncover what their drug use means to them as men. My first challenge is finding young men who will take part in the research.
Let’s hope they don’t prove to be invisible to me!
© C. Darcy, 2014
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 IFP, 2013
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 EMCDDA, 2002
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