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Friday, 15 March, 2002, 13:25 GMT
Drug use rife among children
Cannabis
Cannabis is the drug most widely used by children
One in five children aged 11-15 have used drugs in the last year, a government-commissioned survey has found.

The number of pupils who admitted abusing glue, gas, aerosols or other solvents has also jumped sharply.

The National Centre for Social Research and the National Foundation for Educational Research quizzed more than 9,300 pupils in 285 schools in England and Wales last year.


The threat of criminal sanctions and jail are simply not stopping large numbers of young people experimenting with drugs

Roger Howard
Preliminary findings show that 12% of pupils had used drugs in the last month and 20% had used drugs in the last year.

In 2000, the figures were 9% and 14%. However, they are not directly comparable because of changes in the way the data was collected.

Drug use appears to be higher among boys than girls.

Some 39% of 15-year-olds had used drugs in the last year, compared with just 6% of 11-year-olds.

The survey also showed some 26% of pupils had drunk in the last week - up from 24% in 2000.

One in 10 were regular smokers - the same figure as the previous year.

In 2001, cannabis was by far the most likely drug to have been used by schoolchildren - 13% of pupils had used cannabis in the last year.

Just 1% had used heroin in the last year and 1% had used cocaine. In total, 4% had used Class A drugs in the last year.

Other substance misuse

Some 7% of pupils admitted abusing volatile substances, such as gas or aerosols, in 2001 - compared to 3% in 2000.

The researchers say the rise may be partly explained by a change in the way that the survey was compiled.

However, they say finding highlights the fact that misuse of volatile substances is more prevalent than previously reported.

Among 11 and 12-year-olds, misuse of volatile substances in the last year was more common than use of cannabis.

Some 4% of 11-year-olds had used volatile substances in the last year and 1% had used cannabis.

The equivalent figures for 12-year-olds were 5% and 3%.

Two-fifths of pupils (42%) said they had been offered one or more drugs in the last year.

Boys were more likely to have been offered them than were girls.

Cannabis was the drug most likely to have been offered (27%) but 22% said they had been offered stimulants - a group of substances which includes cocaine and crack as well as ecstasy, amphetamines and poppers.

Failure of policy

Roger Howard, chief executive of DrugScope, the drugs charity, said he was not surprised by the survey findings.

He said: "The threat of criminal sanctions and jail are simply not stopping large numbers of young people experimenting with drugs.

"The only way to address the problem is to invest more in long term education and prevention work and to ensure that those young people who need treatment, get it immediately, and don't have to suffer the long waiting lists that exist at present."

Mr Howard said he was also concerned that the increasing use of solvents may be a result of the lack of information being given to young people on their dangers.

"DrugScope hopes that the media and drug educators in schools will do all they can to present the facts about every drug to young people so they are aware of the risks they maybe taking.

"We also urge the government to give sufficient support to agencies that specialise in educating people about the risk of volatile substances."

In the 29 year period 1971-1999 there were 1,857 deaths from volatile substance abuse in the UK, compared with roughly 90 Ecstasy related deaths between 1988- 2001.

See also:

20 Feb 01 | Health
UK children top drugs league
23 Nov 00 | Health
One in 10 children use cannabis
26 Jul 01 | Health
Teens risking future health
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