Young people and drugs: the ESPAD Report on use and behaviours
The use of alcohol and tobacco is declining among young Europeans, while illicit drug use remained stable, according to the latest Report on the results of a survey by Espad – European School Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs – conducted every four years, released recently. In Italy, the study was carried out by the Institute of Clinical Physiology of the National Research Council (IFC-CNR), and presented at the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (Emcdda).
Alcohol, drug and Internet use and access to gambling are some of the habits investigated in the survey conducted by ESPAD - European School Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs: the study on risk behaviours of European adolescents carried out every four years. The Report on the latest data was released recently. The survey involved 35 European countries and a total of 96,043 students aged 15-16 years, who participated in the study in 2015 responding in schools to an anonymous questionnaire. In Italy, the survey was carried out by the Institute of Clinical Physiology of the National Research Council (IFC-CNR), under the supervision of researcher Sabrina Molinaro.
There is an overall decrease in alcohol and tobacco use among young Europeans, while the use of the so-called new psychoactive substances (NPS), the most widely used illicit drugs, remains high. This overview is not always true for our Country. Tobacco use among adolescents, for example, is much higher and more stable over time in Italy than in the other countries, where a significant decrease was reported. The percentage of Italian students who reported experience with tobacco, however, has decreased in the last 10 years, from 64% in 1995 to 58% in 2015. The percentage of daily smoking among students has remained stable at 21% over the last 20 years, higher than the EU average. In Italy, 84% of students reported having drunk alcohol at least once in their life, a lower percentage than in previous years: current use involves 57% of the sample, the first decline since 2003 (63%).
With regard to drug use, on average, 18% of European students reported having used an illicit drug at least once in their life, but levels varied considerably across the participating countries, between 6% and 37%. Special attention is given to experience of the so-called new psychoactive substances (NPS), reported by about 4% of participants. “On average, NPS seem to be more commonly used than other substances like amphetamines, ecstasy, cocaine or LSD, showing the need to monitor more closely the new drugs that are placed on the market every day”, said Sabrina Molinaro. “They can be found in pure form or in preparation and are not included in the UN list of controlled drugs, but they pose a public health threat comparable to that posed by known illegal substances. There exist various groups of new substances, the most common being: synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic cathinones, phenethylamines, ketamine and similar substances, piperazines. The number and composition of NPS, however, are constantly evolving”. In Italy, as in the rest of Europe, the most common illicit drug is cannabis, but the percentage is much higher than the EU average (27% compared to 16%). The 5% of our students reported having experienced NPS at least once in the last year, making Italy sixth out of 35 countries.
Finally, students reported use of the Internet on almost 6 days per week, engaged in activities ranging from social media use to surfing, from streaming to gaming, from gambling to online buying/selling. In all countries, online gaming was more prevalent among boys (39% compared to 7%), and more boys than girls reported gambling experience. In Italy, social media use was the predominant internet activity, involving 80% of students, followed by gaming (22% of the sample). Finally, 3% of students reported gambling frequently, in line with the EU average.