Use of illicit drugs among 15-16 year-old students appears to have stabilised or slightly fallen, a new study by the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) revealed.
The report, which is built on data collected across 35 European countries in 2007, allows for an interesting comparison of changes in adolescent substance use across Europe today. The report also provides an overview of adolescent perceptions about the associated risks and availability of substances.
When comparing data collected in 1995, 1999, 2003 and 2007 (the 2007 data collection wave is the fourth conducted by ESPAD), it is clear that there is stabilising or falling use of cannabis amongst adolescents. The number of teenagers that reported having smoked cigarettes in the last month had also stabilised at 29%. Less positively, however, the report highlights harmful patterns of alcohol use, which call for broad-based health education approaches. This data comes at a time when there is much political discussion on the issue of youth and alcohol.
According to the report, an average of 61% of 15-16 year-olds surveyed in 2007 had consumed alcohol in the past month, and 43% reported ’heavy episodic drinking’ (five drinks or more per occasion) in the past 30 days. Increase in this behaviour was most noticeable among girls with a rise from 35% to 42%, thus closing the gender gap that existed in 1995.
This increase in teen drinking is of concern for the short term health impacts and lifestyle patterns that are being set. Health education alone is not likely to deliver behavioural changes. It needs to be combined with a supportive legislative environment and complementary policies from the health, education, culture and industry sectors.
For more information
Related EPHA articles