The Guardian reports that secondary school children in England are now more likely to have tried drugs than cigarettes, according to a national survey. The statistics, from NHS Digital, found 24% of 11-15-year-olds saying they had tried recreational drugs at least once in their lives, a nine percentage point rise on the last survey, in 2014.
Drugs use among youngsters was shown to have been declining over the past 15 years, and Paul Niblett, the statistician responsible for the report, said another survey would be needed to establish whether the figures constituted a change in trend.
Niblett said the rise could be partly explained by new questions on the survey asking youngsters about their use of laughing gas (nitrous oxide) and novel psychoactive substances, which were banned last year under sweeping new legislation.
However, even after stripping out the results from these questions, the survey of 12,000 school children carried out under exam conditions in 177 English schools in 2016, still registered a rise in the proportion admitting using drugs, to 21% – a six percentage point increase on the previous survey.
The survey also found that 44% of secondary school pupils said they had drunk alcohol at some point. There had been a steady decline in the proportion admitting to ever having had an alcoholic drink, since the early 2000s until 2014, when 38% said they had tried alcohol. However, those responsible for the survey said the new figure was not comparable to previous years due to a change in the survey question.
Black pupils were the most likely to have taken drugs, followed by those of mixed ethnicity, followed by Asians, then white pupils, then others. The picture for drinking prevalence varied; white pupils were the most likely to have ever had an alcoholic drink, followed by mixed, then black, “other” and Asian.
About 6% admitted having used nitrous oxide, some 3.5% admitted taking stimulants (mostly cocaine and ecstasy), and 2% said they had used psychedelics. Only about one in 200 had ever tried heroin.
Read the full article Drug use more likely than smoking among secondary school pupils
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