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National Statistics
Publication

Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among Young People in England 2018 [NS]

This is part of

National statistics
Publication date:
Geographic coverage:
England
Geographical granularity:
Regions
Date range:
01 Jan 2018 to 31 Dec 2018

Part 10: Young people and drugs: the context

This part sets the context for drug taking among young people.

It looks at:

  • why pupils take drugs.
  • attitudes and perceptions about drug use.
  • where pupils get information about drugs.
  • drug use by family affluence.

Some of the analysis is only based on pupils who said they had taken drugs on more than one occasion. Pupils who had not taken a drug within the last year are excluded as they were not asked on how many occasions they had taken drugs.

 

Why pupils take drugs

Why pupils took drugs on the first and most recent occasion

Pupils could select more than one reason. The category ‘other reasons’ is not shown on the chart. 

There were differences in the reasons pupils gave for taking drugs on the first occasion1 and on the most recent occasion2.

Pupils who took drugs on the first occasion were most likely to say they took them ‘to see what it was like’ (50%), whilst on the most recent occasion they were most likely to say ’to get high or feel good’ (42%).

Image showing why pupils took drugs on the first and most recent occasion

 

Why pupils took drugs on the first occasion by drug taken (most common reasons)

Pupils taking cannabis, volatile substances or Class A drugs all most commonly gave the reason ‘to see what it was like’.

The reason ‘to get high or feel good’ was also commonly given by pupils who took cannabis and Class A drugs, but not commonly for those who used volatile substances.

The reason ‘to forget my problems’ was more likely to be given by pupils who took Class A drugs.

Though never the most common reason, ‘Because friends were doing it’ does feature in the top four reasons for all the drug types examined.

Image showing why pupils took drugs on the first occasion by drug taken (most common reasons)

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1. ‘Why taken on first occasion’ based on pupils who had ever taken drugs

2. ‘Why taken on most recent occasion’ based on pupils who had taken drugs on more than one occasion and at least once in the last year.

For more data relating to this section:

 

 

Attitudes to taking drugs

Attitudes to people of pupil's age taking drugs

13% of pupils agreed it was OK for someone their own age to take cannabis to see what it was like; compared to 10% for sniffing glue, and 3% for taking cocaine.

There was lower tolerance of regular drug use (taking once a week); 7% of pupils thought it was OK for cannabis, 4% for sniffing glue, and 1% for cocaine.

Image showing attitudes to people of pupil's age taking drugs

Though acceptance of drug use remains fairly low among pupils, attitudes have eased somewhat since 2011. The proportion of pupils who thought it was OK to try a drug to see what's like, or take a drug once a week, have increased for all three of the drug types asked about since then (these questions were not asked between 2012 and 2014). 

The following chart shows the proportions who thought it was OK to try drugs, but there are similar trends for the proportion who thought it was OK to take them once a week (see table 10.10).

Image showing attitudes to people of pupil's age taking drugs

 

Attitudes to people of pupil's age taking drugs, by age

The proportion of pupils who thought it was OK for someone their age to try drugs increased with age.

There were similar patterns of increase for those who agreed it was OK to take drugs once per week (not shown on chart).

30% of 15 year olds thought it was OK to try cannabis, and 17% thought it was OK to use it once a week.

Image showing attitudes to people of pupil's age taking drugs, by age

 

Perceived number of people of pupils’ age who take drugs (15 year old's only)

73% of 15 year olds thought that none or only a few people their own age took drugs; prevalence of drug use amongst 15 year olds in the last year, as reported in this survey, was 30%.

10% of 15 year olds significantly overestimated drug use by pupils their own age (those who thought most or all people their own age took drugs in the last year).

Image showing perceived number of people of pupils’ age who take drugs

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For more data relating to this section:

 

 

Sources of helpful information about drug use

Sources from which pupils have obtained helpful information about drug use

Pupils could give more than one answer for this measure.

Pupils were most likely to have obtained helpful information about drug use from parents (71%) and teachers (66%). Other people from whom pupils got helpful information were police in schools (46%), other relatives (46%) and friends (44%).

Of the different forms of media, internet and TV were the most popular sources of helpful information about drug use, with  over half of pupils identifying these options.

Image showing sources from which pupils have obtained helpful information about drug use

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For more data relating to this section:

 

 

Family affluence

Last drug use, by family affluence score3

The likelihood of a pupil having taken drugs in the last month was higher for pupils with a higher family affluence score; 10% for the higher scoring pupils compared with 7% for lower scoring pupils.

A total of 26% of pupils with a high family affluence score had ever taken drugs, compared with 20% of pupils with a low score.

Image showing last drug use by family affluence score

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3. See Appendix B for family affluence scoring methodology.

For more data relating to this section:

Last edited: 15 August 2019 2:42 pm