Newsbrief: British Young People Using More Hard Drugs, Health Department Says 8/1/03

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The British Department of Health reported Tuesday that young people in England and Wales last year used cocaine and ecstasy at record high rates. The finding came in an annual survey of British teen drug use, "Smoking, Drinking, and Drug Misuse Among Young People in England, 2002," parts of which were released in March. The increase in the use of Class A drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy comes as the British government is in the midst of a campaign to discourage their use.

The survey actually looks at two groups of British youth, 11 to 15 year olds in England and 16 to 24 year olds in England and Wales. Among the kiddie set, overall prevalence of drug use was down from 20% in 2001 to 18% last year, but the number of those who reported taking drugs within the last month remained steady at 11%. Cannabis was by far the illicit drug of choice for British middle schoolers, accounting for about three-quarters of all reported drug use. Some 4% of 11 to 15 year olds had used Class A (heroin, cocaine, ecstasy) drugs in the last year.

Not surprisingly, prevalence of drug use increased with age among the early teens. While only 6% of 11 year olds had tried any drugs, 36% of 15 year olds had.

Among the 16 to 24 year olds, 27% reported using cannabis in the past year, 7% had used ecstasy, 5% cocaine, 5% amphetamines, 4% poppers, and 1% had used crack cocaine. Overall, three out of 10 in this groups reported using an illicit drug in the last year, a prevalence level that has held steady for the past decade. What has changed is rates of use for cocaine, up from 1% in 2001 to 5% last year, and ecstasy use, up from 4% to 7%. In what could represent a substitution effect, during the same period the use of both amphetamines and LSD decreased, from 10% to 5% for the former, and from 6% to 1% for the latter.

Meanwhile, the study also found that the early teen group is pounding down the pints of beer at a record rate. The amount of suds quaffed by the youngsters has doubled in a decade to more than five pints a week. One out of four of this group reported drinking within the past week. The prevalence of smoking remains unchanged, with one in ten in this group lighting up.

According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction's latest annual report, the latest British survey figures indicate that Britain's level of drug use among young people is at the high end of those reported for European countries. English teen usage prevalence is near that of Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain, while much higher than that of Portugal, Sweden, or Greece. Note that drug use levels do not appear to correlate with tougher or softer drug control policies.

Visit http://www.doh.gov.uk for this year's British survey and its predecessors.

Visit http://annualreport.emcdda.eu.int/en/home-en.html for the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction data.

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Issue #298, 8/1/03 Kansas City Drug Fighting Tax Encounters Organized Opposition | Prison Population Increase Accelerates, Up 2.6% Last Year | Brazil's Lula Backslides on Drug Reform, Grants Military Continued Control Over Anti-Drug Agency | This Week in History | Newsbrief: Mozambique, Swazi Farmers Find Dagga Crop Lucrative, But Have to Adjust to Market Trends | Newsbrief: Brazil Bans Viagra Ads | Newsbrief: British Young People Using More Hard Drugs, Health Department Says | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story | Newsbrief: Another Pain Doctor Charged With Murder | Newsbrief: Florida Ex-Cons to Get Voting Rights | Mini Briefs: Illinois Syringe Deregulation, James Geddes Released | Web Scan: OPN, HRC, Cultural Baggage, Salon.com | The Reformer's Calendar

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