Page last updated at 05:44 GMT, Monday, 21 September 2009 06:44 UK

NI child drug use 'highest in EU'

Cannabis plant
A survey found the most common age for first trying cannabis is 15

Nearly one in 10 children in Northern Ireland under the age of 12 have tried cannabis, according to a new survey conducted by Queen's University.

The survey also found that young people in Northern Ireland are more likely to experiment with drugs than their peers in the rest of the UK and Europe.

Figures suggest that 45% of teenagers aged 18 and under have tried cannabis.

The Youth Development Survey questioned 4,000 pupils about drugs in 43 schools in Belfast, Ballymena and Downpatrick.

The findings will be discussed by teachers, health educationalists and drug prevention professionals at an event in Queen's on Monday.

'Gateway drug'

Dr Patrick McCrystal, a senior research fellow at the university's Institute for Child Care Research, said the results highlighted the need to educate young people about the risks of experimenting with drugs.

He said a number of teenagers who took part in the survey appeared to have "developed a drug-using lifestyle by the age of 16".

Of the young people who had tried cannabis, around one in ten went on to use it on a weekly basis by the age of 16.
Dr Patrick McCrystal

Dr McCrystal added that the findings relating to cannabis were important because it is "often considered the 'gateway' drug to more serious substance abuse".

"In nearly all cases, cannabis is the first illegal drug used by young people - and almost all of those who reported using cocaine or ecstacy also used cannabis.

"Levels of cannabis use by these young people is higher than among teenagers of the same age in the UK, Ireland and Europe.

"Of the young people who had tried cannabis, around one in ten went on to use it on a weekly basis by the age of 16," he said.

Later this week, researchers from across Europe will gather at Queen's to discuss drugs-related issues when the university hosts the 20th annual conference of the European Society for Social Drug Research.



Print Sponsor


SEE ALSO
Teens 'aware of cannabis harm'
06 Aug 09 |  Newsbeat
'Cocaine tried by 7.5% of teens'
30 Jun 09 |  Northern Ireland
Cannabis health risk 'not rising'
27 Jan 09 |  Health

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific