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Drugnet Europe News from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction — October–December 2007

Drug use among the under-15s

Illicit drug use among very young people (under 15) is rare in Europe and regular drug use even rarer, largely found among specific groups of the population where drug use is combined with other psychological and social disorders. In a Selected issue on 'Drug use and related problems among very young people', published alongside the 2007 Annual report, the EMCDDA focuses on the prevalence and patterns of substance use in this age group and on available responses in terms of legislation, prevention and treatment.

The illicit substance most commonly used by the under-15s is cannabis, followed by inhalants (e.g. glue, aerosols), says the review. Of 15–16 year-old school students reporting to have used cannabis, first use of the drug by age 13 remains uncommon (typically 1%–4%). In contrast, school surveys showed that daily tobacco smoking by age 13 varied in EU countries from between 7% and 18%. Between 5% and 36% of school students in Europe reported having ever been drunk by that age.

Prevalence estimates for other types of drug use among the under-15s are considerably lower than those for cannabis and inhalants. School surveys reveal that lifetime use of ecstasy, amphetamines, cocaine or heroin rarely rises above 2%. In most EU Member States, measures to prevent the early use of licit substances (alcohol, tobacco) are viewed also as prevention against illicit drug use later.

Very young people whose family members use psychoactive substances are known to be at higher risk of early drug use. Data available in Europe indicate that at least 28 000 clients in drug treatment live with their children.

Drugnet Europe is the EMCDDA's newsletter launched in September 1996. The newsletter provides regular and succint information on the Centre's projects and activities to a broad readership.

Page last updated: Thursday, 10 January 2008