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MORE than half of Ireland's students regularly take illegal drugs, a survey has found.

Research by the Union of Students of Ireland shows drugs such as cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine are rife in our colleges.

Half of all the 250,000 students in third level education have tried drugs before the age of 18 - some from as young as 12.

And more than one in 10 takes drugs EVERY DAY in the island's campuses.

USI president Colm Jordan said the wide use of drugs required a major rethink to tackle the growing problem.

He added: "You can't preach and tell students to 'just say no' or they will be even more tempted.

"By constantly setting down rules without informing people of the facts of drugs we are providing a very tempting forbidden fruit.

"Illicit drug use is wide in Irish society as a whole, not just students, and better education is needed for everyone."

Students in 23 major colleges and universities throughout Ireland were asked about their attitudes to drugs.

The findings will shock teachers and parents, with two thirds of regular drug users admitting to first experimenting at secondary school.

Almost a quarter of the 51 per cent of students currently using drugs first tried them between the ages of 13 and 15.

Mr Jordan said: "The most shocking statistic is that most people are trying drugs for the first time before they reach third level education.

"This asks big questions and the government might need to look at bringing drug information on to the curriculum. …