Page last updated at 05:53 GMT, Tuesday, 30 June 2009 06:53 UK

'Cocaine tried by 7.5% of teens'

Bags of cocaine
A survey by Queen's University says some NI teens have used cocaine

A total of 7.5% of NI teenagers surveyed for a Queen's University study say they had tried cocaine at least once by the age of 16.

Four thousand teenagers in 43 schools in NI, have taken part in the Belfast Youth Development Survey each year since entering post-primary education.

Dr Patrick McCrystal from Queen's said it showed the profile of cocaine users may be changing.

He said of those who had taken it "only one in 10 used it on a weekly basis".

"This indicates that while some teenagers have experimented with the drug, few continue to use it regularly," the senior research fellow at the university's Institute of Child Care Research said.

"While cocaine has only recently emerged on to the Northern Ireland drug scene, this study suggests that it may be making its way into the adolescent drug scene quite quickly."

Females

He said that "in the 1990's the typical cocaine user was single, in their 20s, well-educated, and in a well-paid professional job".

"In this study, however, more than half of those who had experimented with the drug were females, and one third had experienced social deprivation," he added.

"They were more likely to live within a disrupted family with just one parent, have poor levels of communication with parents or guardians, and have low levels of motivation to do well at school.

"Most of those who had taken cocaine also regularly got drunk, smoked tobacco daily, and used cannabis on a weekly basis.

"This study shows that young people are able to get hold of cocaine for their own personal use.

"Older friends were the most popular source for obtaining the drug, followed by a dealer and friends of the same age."

Dr McCrystal said the survey highlighted the need to "educate young people about the risks and health and social implications of cocaine use while they are still in compulsory education and under the age of 16".



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