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Long, Jean (2012) Fifth ESPAD survey report published. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 43, Autumn 2012 , pp. 23-24.

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The European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) has conducted surveys of school-going children every four years since 1995, using a standardised method and a common questionnaire (see www.espad.org). The fifth survey was conducted in 36 European countries during 2010/111 and collected information on alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug use among 15–16-year-old students.

 
The rationale for the ESPAD surveys is that school students are easily accessible and are at an age when onset of substance use is likely to occur. Early school leavers, a group known to be vulnerable to alcohol and drug use, are not represented in this survey, so the results do not indicate the extent of alcohol and other drug use among all 15–16-year-old children. ESPAD survey information is valuable in planning prevention initiatives. 
 
This article concentrates on the findings from the survey conducted in Ireland in 2010/2011, when
2,207 students from 72 randomly selected schools completed valid questionnaires. Fewer schools and students participated in 2010 than in 2007 or 2003.
 
Four-fifths of the students (80% boys and 81% girls) reported that they had consumed alcohol at some point in their life, and 73% (72% of boys and 73% of girls) had drunk alcohol in the year prior to the survey. Half (48% boys and 52% girls) had drunk alcohol in the 30 days prior to the survey, a decrease of six percentage points since the 2007 survey (56%). Two-fifths (40%) reported having had five or more drinks on a single occasion in the month prior to the survey. Almost one-quarter (23%) reported that they had had one or more episodes of drunkenness in the 30 days prior to the survey, a decrease of three percentage points since the 2007 survey (26%). Nine per cent of the girls and 13% of the boys had their first episode of drunkenness at or before the age of 13 years. The 2011 European average for alcohol consumption in the last 30 days was 57% (7 percentage points higher than Ireland), while the European average for drunkenness in the last 30 days was 17% (6 percentage points lower than Ireland).
 
Beer (40%), spirits (35%) and cider (33%) were the most common types of alcohol drunk in the month prior to the survey. Respondents reported drinking an average of 6.7 centilitres of alcohol on the last alcohol-drinking day prior to the survey, which places Ireland (and the UK) joint fifth highest. Those who drank alcohol at some point in their life were asked to rate their level of intoxication during the last alcohol drinking day on a scale of one to ten; the average rate for Irish students was 3.8, which places Ireland third highest after the UK and the Faroe Islands.
 
Eighty-four per cent of the students reported that alcohol was easy or fairly easy to acquire in Ireland. Over one-quarter (26%) had bought alcohol for their own consumption in an off-trade outlet in the 30 days prior to the survey; 37% had done so in an on-trade outlet.  Sixty five per cent reported that they were likely to experience positive consequences of alcohol consumption, while 35% were likely to experience negative consequences. Some of the negative consequences reported were: getting into trouble with the police (22%), not being able to stop drinking (20%), and doing something they regretted (48%). Ten per cent of boys and six per cent of girls had experienced delinquency problems as a result of their alcohol use in the year prior to the survey. Delinquency problems included being involved in a physical fight (16% boys and 7% girls), being a victim of robbery or theft (4% of boys and 3% of girls), and being in trouble with the police (11% of boys and 8% of girls).
 
The lifetime use of alcohol decreased by 10 percentage points in 15 years, falling from 91% in 1995 to 81% in 2011, and alcohol use in the month prior to the survey decreased by 19 percentage points, from 69% in 1995 to 50% in 2011. The proportion reporting having had five or more drinks on one occasion during the last 30 days decreased by only four percentage points, from 23% in 1995 to 19% in 2011. The consumption of five or more drinks in the one sitting is an indicator of the harmful use of alcohol.
 
Over two-fifths (43%) of the students (42% of boys and 45% of girls) reported that they had smoked cigarettes at some point in their life, and 21% (19% of boys and 23% of girls) had smoked cigarettes in the 30 days prior to the survey. Over one-fifth had their first cigarette at or before the age of 13 years. Five per cent were smoking daily at or before the age of 13 years. The 2011 European average for smoking cigarettes in the last 30 days was 28% (7 percentage points higher than Ireland), while the European average for smoking cigarettes daily at age 13 or under was 6% (one percentage point higher than Ireland). Three-quarters reported that cigarettes were easy or fairly easy to acquire in Ireland. Over one-fifth thought that people who smoked cigarettes occasionally were at great risk of harming themselves; 67% thought that smoking one or more packs a day constituted a great risk. ,
 
The reduction in cigarette use is larger than the reduction in alcohol use, and alcohol is easier to acquire than cigarettes. The rate of lifetime use of cigarettes decreased by 31 percentage points, from 74% in 1995 to 43% in 2011, and use in the month prior to the survey decreased by 20 percentage points, from 41% in 1995 to 21% in 2011. The proportion who reported smoking cigarettes on a daily basis by age 13 years decreased by 13 percentage points, from 18% in 1995 to 5% in 2011.
 
The Irish data show a fall of 3 percentage points in the rate of lifetime use of any illicit drug between 2007 (22%) and 2011 (19 (Table 1). Boys (23%) were more likely than girls (15%) to use illicit drugs at some point in their life. As the majority of 15–16-year-olds who have tried any illicit drug have used cannabis (marijuana or hashish), the decrease in illicit drug use may be explained by the fall in the number of students who had tried cannabis at some point in their lives, from 20% in 2007 to 18% in 2011 (just above the European average of 17%). Boys (22%) were more likely than girls (15%) to use cannabis at some point in their life. Fourteen per cent of respondents had used cannabis in the year prior to the survey (above the European average of 12%). Only two per cent had used ecstasy at some point in their life and the proportion was the same in the year prior to the survey, indicating recent introduction to the use of this drug. In the case of cocaine powder, 3% had used it in their lifetime, just above the European average of 2%. Nine per cent of respondents reported that they had taken prescribed tranquillisers or sedatives at some point in their lives, and a further three per cent had taken them without a prescription. One in twenty had taken alcohol with pills ‘in order to get high’. Lifetime use of solvents/inhalants decreased considerably, from 15% in 2007 to 9% in 2011, and the rate is now the same as the European average (9%).
 
Forty per cent of the students reported that cannabis was easy or fairly easy to acquire in Ireland, while lower but considerable proportions reported that amphetamines (14%), ecstasy (21%) and sedatives (17%) were easy or fairly easy to acquire. Alcohol and cigarettes are easier to acquire than illicit drugs.
 
Table 1   Respondents in Ireland who reported lifetime use of drugs in the ESPAD surveys of 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011
 
 
1. Hibell B, Guttormsson U, Ahlström S, Balakireva O, Bjarnason T, Kokkevi A and Kraus L (2012) The 2011 ESPAD report: substance use among students in 36 European countries. Stockholm: The Swedish Council for Information on Alcohol and Other Drugs (CAN) and the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe.www.drugsandalcohol.ie/17644
Item Type:Article
Issue Title:Issue 43, Autumn 2012
Date:October 2012
Page Range:pp. 23-24
Publisher:Health Research Board
Volume:Issue 43, Autumn 2012
EndNote:View
Accession Number:HRB (Electronic Only)
Subjects:A Substance use, abuse, and dependence > Prevalence
A Substance use, abuse, and dependence > Prevalence > Substance use behaviour > Alcohol consumption
B Substances > Cannabis / Marijuana
B Substances > Alcohol
T Demographic characteristics > Adolescent / youth (teenager / young person)
T Demographic characteristics > Underage drinker
T Demographic characteristics > Student (secondary level)
VA Geographic area > Europe
VA Geographic area > Europe > Ireland

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