15/09/2005

Half under-15s have tried illegal drugs reveals survey

Almost half the children under-15 in Northern Ireland have tried illegal drugs, it was revealed as a conference on drug use got underway in Belfast today.

The figure is part of a study undertaken by the Youth Development Study research team at the Institute of Child Care Research which tracked over 3,500 young people in Northern Ireland from their first year of secondary school (aged 11) through to fifth form (aged 16).

The researchers collected information on key aspects of adolescent life including smoking, alcohol and drug use, their friendship networks, relationships with their parents and friends, personality, leisure activities, behaviour problems, attitudes to education and behaviour in school, and the neighbourhood in which they live.

The findings included:
  • At age 11 a clear gender divide existed in smoking, alcohol and drug use, with more boys than girls using. However, as young people grow older this gap narrows.
  • By age 15 more girls smoke than boys (50% versus 42%), and girls are as likely as boys to get drunk or use illicit substances.
  • It is possible to identify subgroups of young people who are at high risk of developing drug related problems. One such group is young people who are excluded from school.
  • There is also evidence of a potentially ‘hidden’ group of young people within schools who report regular and frequent drug use.
Over 150 delegates from schools and youth agencies across Northern Ireland will attend a conference in Belfast today to hear the findings from the study and to discuss the report's implications.

Key speakers include: Professor Sir Michael Rutter (Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London); Dr Eilish Gilvarry (Clinical Director, Northern Regional Drug and Alcohol Service); and Rob Phipps (Northern Ireland Regional Alcohol and Drugs Coordinator, Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety).

(MB/SP)

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