During her role as Minister for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell-O’Connor convened a Rapid Response Group of experts to develop a framework to tackle the issue of drug use among higher education students in Ireland.

The group consisted of academics, practitioners and experts in education, healthcare and law enforcement; chaired by Dr Andrew Power (Registrar of the Institute of Art, Design and Technology), and led by Dr Michael Byrne (Head of Student Health in University College Cork).

The group developed a number of actions under the four pillars of 1. Institutional Leadership; 2. Student Engagement; 3. Community Engagement; and 4. Service Provision. A number of action points are listed under each pillar. The full report of the Rapid Response Group is available here.

A key action point under pillar four, is the gathering of accurate and up to date data around drug trends and behaviours. The MyUSE research team in University College Cork, led by Dr Michael Byrne were commissioned to carry out this data gathering exercise. The team developed the DUHEI survey and are leading the implementation of the survey among 21 Higher Education Institutions in the Republic of Ireland.

The overall aim of the DUHEI study is to determine the prevalence and correlates of drug use among the student population in the Republic of Ireland, to inform future policy and practice in the area.
The objectives are to explore or determine:
1. The prevalence of drug use and the range of drugs being used by students.
2. The frequency, type, and impacts of reported harms arising from drug use by students.
3. The motivations for drug use, and the desire and capacity to change or stop using drugs.
4. The use of cognitive enhancers by students to enhance academic performance.
5. The use of drugs by students during sexual activity.
6. The experiences of students in recovery from drug and/or alcohol addiction.
7. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on drug use amongst students.