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Tuesday, 16 April, 2002, 07:59 GMT 08:59 UK
Youth drug and drink abuse spirals
A third of 15 and 16-year-olds are 'regular drinkers'
Youngsters in Wales drink more alcohol than their counterparts
The number of children in Wales who admit to using drugs almost doubled during the 1990s, according to a new report.

Youngsters aged 11 to 16 also drink alcohol more often than their counterparts in most of Europe and the US.

Rolling a cannabis joint
Numbers of Welsh children using drugs almost doubled in the 1990s

The findings are in a study conducted by the Health Promotion Division of the Welsh Assembly, and will be debated by the Assembly ahead of an action plan being drawn up to tackle the growing problem.

One teaching leader in Wales said the latest drugs and drinks statistics were the result of mistakes made a generation ago.

Welsh secretary of the NASUWT, Geraint Davies, said: "Fifteen years ago society started to turn a blind eye to alcohol and drugs abuse.

"We are now reaping the harvest of that advice."

Mr Davies said the extent of the problem could not be underestimated, with widespread drugs use among youngstersin the south Wales valleys now spreading to west and north Wales.

The Health Behaviour of School-Aged Children (HBSC) report is conducted every four years in collaboration with the World Health Organisation.

It questions 15- to 16-year-olds on their use of a wide range of drugs including ecstasy, cocaine, heroin and anabolic steroids.

Illicit drugs

In 1990, 24% of boys and 20% of girls reported that they had experimented with at least one drug.

By 1998 these proportions had increased to 42% and 41%.

During the same period the proportion of this age group reporting current use of illicit drugs similarly doubled to 23% for girls and 22% for boys.

The HSBC study also found young people in Wales report substantially higher rates of weekly drinking and drunkenness than the vast majority of countries.

Youngsters in Wales, England and Denmark were most likely to report weekly drinking while reported drunkenness was most likely in Wales and Denmark.

Welsh Assembly chamber
Assembly members are to debate the issue

Among older pupils, weekly drinking has increased, with almost three-fifths of boys and half of girls reporting they drunk alcohol at least once a week in 2000.

However, since 1986 there has been a decrease in the proportion of 11 to 12-year-olds drinking at least weekly.

Support groups have called for a co-ordinated approach to tackle the problem.

"There has to be co-ordination in the messages going out to young people so that they can make informed decisions," said Jean Harrington of Taff Ely Drugs Support group.

Assembly members will debate the report on Tuesday and Health Minister Jane Hutt is to draw up a report and suggested action plan.

BBC Wales's Penny Roberts
"These 16-year-old girls could not settle in mainstream school, and now attend a church-run project in Swansea"

What young people say about drink and drugsYoung drinkers
Kids speak out on alcohol and drugs
See also:

15 Mar 02 | Health
Drug use rife among children
26 Jul 01 | Health
Teens risking future health
20 Feb 01 | Health
Teenage drink and drugs in Europe
20 Feb 01 | Health
UK children top drugs league
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