Drug use, smoking and drinking among young people in England

The following draws on the annual survey carried out for the government of pupils aged 11 to 15 years. The full  report, Drug use, Smoking and drinking among young people in England in 209, can be downloaded from www.ic.nhs.uk.

The report is based on a survey of 7,296 pupils aged between 11 and 15 from schools throughout England in the autumn term of 2010.

Drug Use

(Drugs include illegal drugs, volatile substances and other drugs not obtained from a doctor or chemist.)

  • 18% have taken drugs in their lifetime (29% in 2001); 12% had taken drugs in the last year (20% in 2001); 7% in the last month (12% in 2001)
  • 8.2% took cannabis in the last year; down from 13.4% in 2001
  • 61% of pupils reported that they remembered receiving health education lessons about drugs in the last year.
  • Parents (62%) and teachers (67%) were seen as a useful source of information about drugs by young people. 

Alcohol Use

  • 56% say that they have never drunk alcohol, up from 39% in 2003
  • 13% say they have drunk alcohol in the last week, down from a peak of 26% in 2001
  • Pupils who drank alcohol in the last week had a mean intake of 12.9 units. 
  • 14% of all young people have been drunk in the last month.
  • 60% remember getting alcohol education in the last year.
  • Parents (75%) and teachers (67%) are seen as the most helpful people to go to for information about alcohol.

Drug Misuse Declared

The Home Office's annual analysis of the British Crime Survey's data on drug use by adults includes sections on young adults (16 to 24 years).  

The trends appear to be of a continuing and substantial falls in the proportions who have ever used drugs (down 8% from 1996), those who used last year (9.3% down from '96) and those who say they've used in the last month (8.3% down from '96).

But beneath the trend the sheer scale of drug use becomes clear with the report estimating that 2.6 million (40%) young adults have used illicit drugs at some point in their lives.

For the first time the report has data on drugs that have been recently made illegal, including mephedrone.  The survey found that 4.4% of young adults had used mephedrone in the last year the same proportion who had used cocaine.  The report goes on to say that over 90% of mephedrone users had used another drug in the last year.