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Publication, Part of

Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among Young People in England, 2021

National statistics

National Statistics

Correction to sources of information on drug use data (part 10)

Following the initial publication it was discovered that around half of pupil responses to the question on 'Sources of helpful information about drug use' had been excluded from the results. This was corrected and the affected tables and commentary have been re-issued. 

In Part 10: Young people and drugs: the context, the affected outputs were tables 10.19, 10.20 and 10.21, and the associated chart and commentary in the section on 'Sources of helpful information about drug use'. Though some of the quoted figures changed by 0-3 percentage points, there was no effect to the order of contribution of the most common sources.

4 November 2022 00:00 AM

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This is the most recent survey in a series that began in 1982. Each survey since 1998 has included a core set of questions on smoking, drinking and drug use. In 2000, the survey questions changed to focus on smoking and drinking or on drug use in alternate years and in 2016, the survey reverted back to including both drinking/smoking and drugs focused questions in one survey.

The 2021 survey was conducted by Ipsos Mori, and questioned 9,289 year 7 to 11 pupils, mostly aged 11 to 15, between September 2021 and February 2022, across 119 schools. In previous years the survey has been conducted by external interviewers, however due to the Covid pandemic and visitor restrictions, schools were offered the choice of an interviewer attending or guidance to run the survey themselves; 60 schools chose interviewer led and 59 schools teacher led.

Full details of the survey design and data collection are given in the Appendix to this report.

Each survey now includes a core section of questions covering the following:

  • pupils’ experience of smoking, drinking and drug use;
  • consumption of cigarettes and alcoholic drinks in the last week;
  • awareness and availability of specific named drugs; and
  • small sections on wellbeing and family affluence

More detailed questions were also asked but the sample was split in two in order to make it possible for pupils to complete the questionnaire in one school period.  Half the pupils were asked additional questions on smoking and drinking and the other half were asked additional questions on drug use.  The additional questions included:

  • where pupils get cigarettes, alcohol and drugs;
  • attitudes of pupils and their families to smoking, drinking and drug taking;
  • impact of school lessons and other sources of information about smoking, drinking and drug taking. dependence on smoking;
  • exposure to second-hand smoke;
  • where and with whom pupils drink;
  • experience of drunkenness; and
  • types of drugs taken.


Estimates from surveys

This survey, in common with other surveys, collects information from a sample of the population. The sample is designed to represent the whole population as accurately as possible within practical constraints, such as time and cost. Consequently, statistics based on the survey are estimates, rather than precise figures, and are subject to a margin of error, also known as a 95% confidence interval. Appendix B, section 2 covers how sampling errors were calculated. 

For example the survey estimate might be 24% with a 95% confidence interval of 22% to 26%.  A different sample might have given a different estimate, but we expect that the true value of the statistic in the population would be within the range given by the 95% confidence interval in 95 cases out of 100. Confidence intervals are affected by the size of the sample on which the estimate is based. In general, the larger the sample, the smaller the confidence interval, and hence the more precise the estimate.

For key measures in this report, the confidence intervals have been quoted in brackets after the estimated prevalence. Confidence intervals for other key survey estimates  are available in an Excel appendix table that accompanies this report.

Where differences are commented on, these reflect the same degree of certainty that these differences are real, and not just within the margins of sampling error. These differences can be described as statistically significant, implying no more than a 5% chance that any reported difference is not a real one but a consequence of sampling error.  Some apparently large differences which are not statistically significant have been annotated in the report so users are aware of this.

Last edited: 4 November 2022 9:35 am