National prevalence surveys indicate that lifetime and recreational drug use among all social classes have increased steadily over the last decade in Ireland (Moran et al., 2001a, Mayock, 2002, National Advisory Committee on Drugs, 2008a). Drugs research has been traditionally based on the identification, weighting and interrelatedness of risk and protective factors within a "risk prevention paradigm". This paradigm has been criticised for its lack of inclusion of individual, group and wider structural aspects, and occurs within a greater awareness of greater social discourse and societal shifts. The research papers in this portfolio of work are thematically analysed and conceptualised within the theoretical framework of cognitive and structural social capital. The descriptive research and later, more conceptual papers investigating drug use among rural youth, Travellers and cocaine use, are thereby explored in terms of the potential ‘normalisation of rural youth drug use’ within contemporary risk discourse, the assimilatory threat of increasing drug use among the ‘Traveller community’., and the emergence of the ‘recreational cocaine user’ in Irish society.