Cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug in the developed world and its use is associated with several adverse physical and mental health effects and negative social outcomes. Earlier use of cannabis increases the risk of adverse effects. Attitudes and perceived risk towards drugs are regarded as strong influences in determining whether or not a person uses cannabis, but there is little existing research on Irish teenagers' attitudes to the risks of this drug.
This was a descriptive, cross-sectional study using a structured, anonymous questionnaire. The study was undertaken in nine public and private secondary schools in Cork City and suburbs. Students aged 15-18 and in fourth, fifth or sixth year of school were included.
Of the 507 participating students, 39.3 % (n = 199) reported previous cannabis use. There were significantly lower levels of perceived risk of cannabis among those who had used the drug compared with those who had not, for all categories of risk (p < 0.01). Attitudes towards cannabis were more liberal among males and those with previous use of the drug. A minority of students (n = 92; 18.2 %) support legalisation of cannabis. The majority of teenagers (n = 382; 75.8 %) believe that they are not given enough information about the drug.
Cannabis use is very widespread among teenagers in Cork. There are relatively low levels of perceived risk of mental and physical health problems with use of the drug. Attitudes towards cannabis are associated with personal use of the drug and gender.