Teens drink less often than Euro average

Irish school children drink alcohol less often than the European average — but consume more when they do drink, according to a major study.

The ESPAD 2011 report shows that where Ireland was once at the top of the European table for binge-drinking among 15 and 16-year-old students, it is now around the average.

The research, conducted every four years, found that Ireland has experienced the largest fall in Europe in illegal drug use, dropping from 37% in 1995 to 19% in 2011.

The study, carried out in 36 European countries, found Ireland was one of three countries with the largest drop in cigarette smoking rates.

Findings among Irish 15-16-year-old school students show:

* 50% have drunk alcohol in the past month — compared to 58% in 2007 and 73% in 2003. The European average is 57%, with the highest in the Czech Republic (79%).

* Irish students consumed 6.7 centilitres of pure alcohol the last time they drank, compared to an average of 5.1cl. Denmark topped the table (9.7cl).

* 40% engaged in heavy episodic drinking in the past month, down on 2007. It compares to an average of 39%. Denmark and Malta scored the highest (56%).

* 21% smoked cigarettes in the past month, compared to 23% in 2007 and 33% in 2003. The average is 28%, with Latvia at the top (43%).

“The Irish students report less use of cigarettes and alcohol during the past 30 days compared with the average for all countries,” said Dr Mark Morgan of St Patrick’s College, Dublin, the Irish researcher for the study.

He said the prevalence of heavy episodic drinking in the past month did not differ from the average. He said the only figure that “stands out” was the amount of alcohol consumed on the last occasion.

In relation to illegal drugs, the study found:

* 18% reported use of cannabis at some point in their lives (lifetime use), compared to 20% in 2007 and 38% in 2003. The average stands at 17%, with the Czech Republic scoring the highest (42%).

* 6% reported lifetime use of drugs other than cannabis, compared to 10% in 2007. The average is 6%, with Monaco having the highest (11%).

* 3% reported lifetime use of tranquillisers without prescription, the same as 2007. The average is 6%, with Poland topping the table (15%).

* 9% reported lifetime use of inhalants, the same as the average. Croatia has the highest (28%).

Concluding, Dr Morgan said: “Even though two or three variables differ from the average, Irish students’ overall substance use habits do not seem to differ all that much from the ESPAD average.

The research was conducted by the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) and published by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.

* www.emcdda.europa.eu

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