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Last Updated: Friday, 24 March 2006, 15:32 GMT
'One in five pupils' tried drugs
Cannabis was the most used drug amongst the children surveyed
One in five secondary school children tried drugs in the last year, figures from a national survey suggest.

A quarter told the Information Centre for Health and Social Care survey they had drunk alcohol in the last week.

While 10% of the 9,000 youngsters aged 11-15 from the 305 schools surveyed said they smoked regularly - at least one cigarette a week.

Some 25% said they had been offered cannabis, 12% said they had tried other drugs and 4% had taken class A drugs.

'No increase'

The survey for the information centre, which was set up in 2005 to provide more information for health and social care professionals, said the prevalence of drug taking increased with age.

Some 6% of 11-year-olds said they had taken drugs in the last year compared with a third of 15-year-olds in the survey.

This was reflected in the figures for alcohol use, with 3% of 11-year-olds saying they had taken a drink in the previous week. This rose to 50% among 15-year-olds.

Chief executive of the Information Centre Professor Denise Lievesley said: "The survey illustrates that the levels of drugs, drink and cigarettes by children aged 11-15 have remained constant for the past five years despite increased attention to these behaviours."

A government spokeswoman said the latest figures showed progress was being made in reducing the number of young people drinking alcohol.

'Underlying causes'

"It's also good news that the number of 11 to 15-year-olds who smoke has reduced to 9% - meaning we have already achieved the 2010 target, set out in the Smoking Kills White Paper.

"We recognise that there is a lot more to do but we have got the measures in place on education and restricting the supply of drugs, alcohol and tobacco to help reduce these figures further."

Simon Blake, assistant director of children's development at charity the National Children's Bureau, said the results were in line with what was already known about children's substance abuse.

He said: "We need to look at the underlying causes, why children and young people are using these substances - alcohol, drugs and tobacco - so that we can tackle that.

"Just telling children not to drink or take drugs simply doesn't work.

"For example when we talk to girls about smoking its sometimes more about body image and emotional health than nicotine as a drug," he said.

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