One in four of NI's secondary pupils have tried drugs

A report published today by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety has revealed that one-in-three secondary school pupils reported having been offered drugs and one in four had tried or used an illicit drug on at least one occasion.

Authored by Robert Miller, of Queen’s University of Belfast, and Lizanne Dowds, of the University of Ulster, the report contains detailed analysis of the Young Persons Behaviour and Attitudes Survey (YPBAS) and a drugs module included in the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency Omnibus Survey.

The analysis found that of the 25% of 11 to 16 year old respondents who had tried drugs, 17% stated that they were currently using at least one drug and 7% reported using drugs "frequently". Among young adults in the 16-25 age group three out of five had been offered drugs; 37% reported using a drug at least once; 23% reported current use; and 5% frequent use.

The most commonly used illicit drugs in the secondary school sample were cannabis and solvents, though cannabis users tended to be older than solvent users. While for the young adult sample, the most commonly used drugs were cannabis and ecstasy. The study revealed that multiple drug use was relatively uncommon.

Exposure to and first use of drugs, ease of access to drugs, current use of drugs and offering drugs to others are all strongly linked with age in the secondary school sample. While just 5% of 12-year-olds had used drugs, the figure rose to 33% for 16-year-olds. The link with age is also present in the young adult sample, the amount of drug use increased through late adolescence to reach a ‘plateau’ in the early twenties.

The YPBAS took place in the autumn of 2000 and included a secondary school sample of 6,297 students aged 11-16, while the Omnibus Survey sampled 640 young adults.

Commissioned by the Department’s Drug and Alcohol Information and Research Unit on behalf of the Northern Ireland Drugs and Alcohol Campaign, the publication is available online at www.dhsspsni.gov.uk/iau/pubs.html


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