Report on drugs

If you are particularly interested in cannabis, in 2011 we showed that about 1 in 5 pupils in Year 10 had tried at least one drug with up to 11% of Year 10 pupils reporting they tried cannabis. However, figures from 1986, show a declining trend from around 2003 of those who reported taking cannabis.

We produced our first reports on drugs in the 1980s and have published many since. Our latest drugs figures can be found in our Young People into... reports. We have also produced a variety of reports about Trends in drug use among young people. In 2005 we summarised some figures about cannabis in a Special Cannabis Report (pdf).

DRUG EDUCATION AND DRUG USE see also... PRESENTATION TO DRUG EDUCATION FORUM - March 2005

In an issue of the journal 'Education and Health' (vol.21 no.3) we reported on a link between lower drug use and usefulness of drug education which shows a similar association to the Department of Health's survey 'Drug use, smoking and drinking among young people in England in 2001'

We have asked a question in our secondary questionnaire, about pupil’s recall and assessment of school lessons about a variety of Personal, Social and Health Education topics. The following example shows the results from a survey of 13,809 Year 10 (14-15 year old) pupils:

  • 32% said they cannot remember any lessons about drug education (including tobacco and alcohol)
  • 10% thought that they were not at all useful
  • 20% thought their lessons were of some use
  • 21% said quite useful
  • 15% said very useful
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Can't remember any Not at all useful Some use Quite useful Very useful

Percentages reporting quality of school lessons about drugs

There were marked differences in the drug experience of the pupils depending on how they rated their drug education. If they said they could not remember any drug education:

  • 32% said they had ever taken a drug [other than medications, alcohol and tobacco]

If they said that any drug education lessons were not at all useful:

  • 40% said they had ever taken a drug [other than medications, alcohol and tobacco]

If they said that any drug education lessons were of some use:

  • 27% said they had ever taken a drug [other than medications, alcohol and tobacco]

If they said that any drug education lessons were quite useful:

  • 23% said they had ever taken a drug [other than medications, alcohol and tobacco]

If they said that any drug education lessons were very useful:

  • 23% said they had ever taken a drug [other than medications, alcohol and tobacco]
boxchart boxchart boxchart boxchart boxchart
Can't remember any Not at all useful Some use Quite useful Not useful

Percentages experimenting with drugs, by usefulness of school lessons about drugs

So, the more useful that they thought their drug education was, the less likely it was that 14-15 year olds had ever tried drugs.

 

We can find this association in males and females separately, (one example is a data set from Hull and East Riding where a much smaller questionnaire was used that focussed only on drugs). So, this association can readily be replicated. It is tempting to interpret this finding as meaning that good drug education inhibits or retards experimentation with drugs. However, it might also be the case that those young people who are most likely to experiment with drugs are those least likely to respond well to drug education of any quality.

Perhaps the best reaction to these data is to ask ourselves how we can offer drug education that will be useful to all young people, whatever their background or likely future habits.