Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Young people’s attitudes to drugs

The EMCDDA have a new survey of young people’s attitudes to drugs:

Between 80% and 94% of those surveyed thought heroin, cocaine and ecstasy posed a ‘high risk’, compared with around 40% for cannabis. Meanwhile, 43% felt that cannabis use represented a ‘medium health risk’, similar to the perceived risk of smoking tobacco.

The full report gives a lot more detail.

Young People and Drugs

Young People and Drugs

They look at the sources of information for young people (which they define as 15 – 24 years old) and found:

  • 61% said they’d use the internet to get information about illicit drugs;
  • 35% said they’d turn to a friend to talk about drug issues (a similar number said they would talk to a health professional), with 27% saying they’d talk to parents or other relatives.
  • At the bottom of the list were the police, social workers and telephone helplines.

Interestingly UK young people (along with the Irish) are identified as being most likely to talk to someone they know (parents, relatives or friends) about drugs and drug use. They were also towards the top of the list of countries that said they would talk to health professionals.

That said the report points out that:

the Internet (35%) was not actually the channel most frequently consulted to find out about drug-related issues. More use was made of media campaigns (46%) and school prevention programmes (39%).

58% of the UK young people said they had used media campaigns as a way of finding out information about drugs in the last year. Perhaps unsurprisingly for this age group school was a much less important source of information (36%).

In the UK and Ireland, almost twice as many respondents as the EU27 average mentioned that they had discussed the risks and effects of drug use with their friends or relatives during the past year. Forty-five percent of Irish and 44% of British respondents said they had talked to a friend (compared to the EU27 average of 26%) and the corresponding percentages for having contact with a parent or relative were 36% and 32%, respectively, compared to the EU27 average of 18%. This finding is consistent with that fact that Irish and British young people were the most liable to say they would trust their friends or relatives when wanting more information about illicit drugs.

In terms of health risks as we’ve seen heroin cocaine and ecstasy are accepted as being risky drugs by the vast majority of European young people. However, the UK’s young people rated the risks posed by cocaine lower than the European average: 76% said it had a high risk and 20% said it had a medium risk.

Across Europe cannabis is seen as a high risk by 40%, and 14% say it’s a low risk drug. In the UK only 28% of young people see cannabis as a high risk drug, and 26% say it’s a low risk to users health.

There is an even greater challenge in convincing European young people of the risks of alcohol (24% say it has high risks; 18% in the UK) and tobacco (28%, with 29% in the UK).

Turning to how to deal with drugs the survey found:

Nearly half of respondents (47%) chose information and prevention campaigns as one of the most effective ways of dealing with society’s drug problems and a quarter (24%) said it was the most effective way…

The legalisation of drugs, however, was judged to be the least effective way of fighting drug problems in society: only 13% of interviewees selected this measure as one of the most effective measures.

In looking at individual countries reactions they found:

In Denmark and the Anglo-Saxon countries, the clampdown against drug dealers and traffickers was seen to be the least effective response: only half of British (48%), Danish and Irish (both 50%) 15-24 year-olds thought this action would be effective. Furthermore, while in Ireland and the UK, three out of 10 respondents considered this action to be the most effective way to combat society’s drug problems (29% and 27%, respectively), Danish respondents were significantly less likely to share this positive view (18%).

The UK was less likely to see information and prevention campaigns working than the European average.  Only 17% said it was the most effective way of dealing with drugs, with 21% picking it as their second option.  Treatment on the other hand was seen to be more effective here than on average; with 19% saying this was the most effective public policy input and 23% saying it was the second most effective.

The young people from the UK were the most likley to see action to reduce poverty and unemployment as being effective with 24% putting it in their top two choices (against a European average of 15%).  They were also amongst the most likely to support legalisation:

British, Irish and Dutch respondents were the ones who most favoured the legalisation of drugs as a way of dealing with drug problems in society: slightly more than one in five respondents thought that this would be effective, and 14%, 16% and 12%, respectively, thought it was the most effective way.

However, exploring this in a bit more depth the report says that:

  • 96% of UK young people think that heroin should remain legal
  • 92% think cocaine should be illegal
  • 91% think ecstasy should remain illegal
  • 59% think that cannabis should be illegal

They also say that 27% would like tobacco to be made illegal, and 8% think the same about alcohol.

The paper also looks at how easy young people think getting hold of drugs are.

  • With heroin, 74% of British young people said it was either very or fairly difficult to get hold of;
  • This dropped to 48% for cocaine;
  • For ecstasy 49% put it in the very or fairly difficult categories; and
  • Only 26% thought the same about cannabis.

Amongst legal drugs 80% of British young people thought tobacco was very easy to access, and 81% said the same about alcohol.


Filed under: europe, ,

2 Responses

  1. […] finally, according to the Eurobarometer survey (see here for our precis), only 18% of young people (15 to 24) see alcohol as having serious health […]

  2. […] You can read more about the survey’s findings here. […]

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