About half of adolescents use illegal drugs and binge drink regularly, new research suggests.
A survey of hundreds of teenagers aged between 15 and 19 years old from the south and south east found more than 50% frequently drank heavily with a similar number regularly using drugs.
The shocking findings are to be disclosed at an international conference on alcohol and drug use by young people today in UCD.
“The research was conducted on a sample of 462 15-19 year olds living in the south and south east regions and found that 51% binge drank regularly which is defined as five or more drinks on one occasion once a month or more,” a conference spokesman said.
“Nineteen per cent said they binge drink weekly, while 4% said they binge drink several times a week.”
About 86% of those surveyed said they drank alcohol and the findings showed there was no significant difference between boys and girls in how much they took or at what age they first began drinking.
The average age was just 13 and a half.
On a typical drinking session the young people said they took around six drinks, with boys taking slightly over six and girls slightly under.
Drinking patterns change with age, with an average of around four drinks at 15 compared with seven at 19 years.
Almost a third of those surveyed said they took drink on a weekly basis.
At 15 years old 12% of boys and 20% of girls said they took alcohol at least once a week while 50% of boys and almost 70% of girls drank at 19.
“Consequences of alcohol use were reported by 38% of all participants,” the spokesman added.
“Getting into an argument was the most frequently reported consequence of alcohol use, experienced by 20% of young people. Trouble at home was reported as the next most frequent consequence at 18%.
“Thirteen per cent of the sample reported that alcohol use led to an accident or injury, getting into a physical fight, or causing damage to property.”
About 50% of the young people said they had used illegal drugs, with the average age of the first occasion at just 14 and a half.
At 41% cannabis was the most commonly used, followed by inhalants, poppers, cocaine, sedatives, amphetamines, ecstasy, and opiates.
Girls had a far higher rate of lifetime cannabis use than boys.
A range of academics and experts will address today’s conference.