Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

The 2007 ESPAD report

ESPADThe EMCDDA have published a summary of the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD).

In their news release they point out:

Use of illicit drugs among 15–16-year-old school students, appears to have stabilised or slightly fallen, according to the latest European study of this group published today by ESPAD. The report, which follows a 2007 survey conducted in 35 European countries, also reveals a decrease in last-month rates of cigarette smoking among school students. However, it sounds the alarm over clear rises in the group’s ‘heavy episodic drinking’, and the narrowing gender gap in this behaviour.

I’ve taken a look at how the UK fares against the average and created the following graph to help (click it to get a bigger version).



The survey suggests that 58 % of pupils from participating countries have tried smoking cigarettes at least once and 29 % had smoked in the past 30 days.

The report has nothing specific to say about young people from the UK in terms of tobacco, it does however make a general point:

Over time, a slight decrease in the past 30 days’ smoking may be noticed, the total average prevalence rate having dropped by four percentage points between 1995 and 2007 in ESPAD countries with comparable data for all four waves. If the comparison is confined to the period between 1999 and 2007, the drop in relatively recent smoking is seven percentage points. A small overall gender gap (4 percentage points) was noticed in 1995 but this gap had vanished in 2007.


On average 90% of pupils said they had drunk at least one alcoholic drink in their lifetime. 82% said they had drunk alcohol in the last year, and 61% say they’ve done so in the last 30 days.

Countries with many students that have been drunk during the past 12 months usually have high figures for drunkenness during the past 30 days. Countries in which many students report drunkenness this often include Denmark (limited comparability), the Isle of Man, the United Kingdom and Austria, with figures from 49 to 31 % for past 30 days drunkenness. Countries on the other end of the scale include Armenia (2 %) and Cyprus (9 %).

Another way of measuring drunkenness has been to ask how often the students had been consuming five drinks or more per occasion…

Some countries score high on both measures, for example Denmark (limited comparability), the Isle of Man and the United Kingdom. However, there are countries in which many students report heavy episodic drinking during the past 30 days, while they were rather low on the ranking list for drunkenness for the same period. Examples of such countries include Malta, Portugal, Estonia and Latvia.

Illicit drugs

On average, 23 % of the boys and 17 % of the girls have tried illicit drugs at least once during their lifetime according to the 2007 survey.

The vast majority of those who have tried illicit drugs report using cannabis (19%), 3% say they have tried ecstasy, with the same percentage for cocaine and amphetamines.

In terms of the UK the report says:

No country displays a continuous decrease, but Ireland and the United Kingdom drop substantially in illicit drug use when the whole period is considered (14 percentage points down roughly), while there is also a minor decrease in the Faroe Islands (6 percentage points down 1995–2007). It could be noted that even though Estonia and the United Kingdom are on the same prevalence level in 2007 (about 28 %), they have reached that point from opposite directions; an increase from 8 % in 1995 in the case of Estonia and a decrease from 42 % in that of the United Kingdom.

They also point to low illicit use of medicines (such as tranquilisers) and consequently the use of pills with alcohol.


The report says that 9% of students in the survey say they’ve used volatile substances. They go on to say:

The biggest drops have taken place in Lithuania and the United Kingdom (about 12 percentage points down) and an opposite development is notable for Finland and the Slovak Republic (6 points up).

Final Remarks

The report concludes with some final remarks which include pointing out that the UK is amongst a number of countries where prevalence rates are above or around average for most of the nine measures. However, they also say:

Regarding recent changes, students in Belgium (Flanders), Iceland, Ireland, Switzerland and the United Kingdom often tend to report decreased levels of substance use for many of the variables.

They go on to say:

Some long-term country trends could also be mentioned. For instance, an example of a country for which most substance-use measures show no increases at all across all four surveys is the United Kingdom. Actually, for most variables compared, British students show a decrease or at worst a stabilised situation.


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2 Responses

  1. […] is a picture of the findings from the European School Survey published a few days ago, and for this one I’ve chosen cigarette use in the last 30 days.  However if you go to the […]

  2. […] In amongst a range of articles they’ve summaraised the findings of the last ESPAD survey of school pupils (you can see the summary we did of it here). […]

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