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One in 10 British 17-year-olds have taken ‘hard drugs’ like ketamine, cocaine and ecstasy, according to a new study.

Researchers also found that one in three young people had tried cannabis by the age of 17, and over 50 per cent had experience of binge-drinking alcohol.

White 17-year-olds were twice as likely to have used hard drugs and almost three times as likely to binge-drink as BAME teenagers of the same age.

In total, 11 per cent of white teenagers admitted using hard drugs, while just five per cent of young people from BAME backgrounds made the same claim. And just over one in five of BAME teenagers had taken part in binge drinking alcohol, compared with 59 per cent of those from white backgrounds.

It was also found that teenage boys were much more likely to use cannabis, binge drink and take psychoactive drugs than girls of the same age. And teens with parents who were educated to degree level were more likely to have used alcohol than those with parents who had not studied at university.

Drug use among young people seemed to be unaffected by the educational qualifications of their parents.

Academics at University College London (UCL) studied data on substance use collected in 2018 and 2019 as part of the Millennium Cohort Study. Approximately 20,000 people born between 2000 and 2002 were involved in the study.

The study’s co-author, Emla Fitzsimons, said risk-taking behaviours like drinking alcohol and experimenting with drugs were “an expected part of growing up”.

But she said: “Behaviours in adolescence can be a cause for concern as they can have adverse long-term consequences for individuals’ health and wellbeing, and their social and economic outcomes.”

Cannabis use lower among today’s young people

The results of the survey were compared to a similar study involving teenagers born in the late 1980s. The academics found that the millennials in that earlier survey drank similar amounts of alcohol but used more cannabis than their younger Generation Z counterparts.

And official government figures from the Office for National Statistics showed drug use was lower among young people aged between 16 and 24 in 2020 than it was more than two decades earlier in the late 1990s.

Aase Villadsen, a researcher at UCL, said the results were surprising as they showed that levels of antisocial behaviour had peaked at a younger age than usual and were actually starting to reduce by the time the participants were 17.

Dr Villadsen said: “This is a positive and will potentially help to improve the future social and economic prospects of Generation Z.”

AlphaBiolabs offers a range of drug and alcohol testing services to members of the public, workplaces, and organisations involved in the UK justice system. This includes the analysis of breath, saliva, urine, blood, hair, and nail samples.

To find out more, call 0333 600 1300 or email our Customer Services team at info@alphabiolabs.com.

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