Fewer teenagers are drinking but cannabis use remains a problem among adolescents, a European-wide study has revealed.

The European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) looks at substance misuse among 15 to 16-year-olds living in 35 countries in Europe. The report found that the level of illegal drug use in this age group was still high but the number of teenagers smoking and drinking was starting to fall.

The study involved quizzing 96,043 high school students in an anonymous poll. More than half (54%) of the 15 and 16-year-olds had never smoked while less than a quarter had consumed a cigarette within the last 30 days.

Alcohol use remained high among teenagers but less than half (47%) had consumed alcohol within the last 30 days, a fall from 56% in the same survey 20 years earlier. However, 78% of those taking part in the poll said it was relatively easy to get hold of alcohol and more than a third had been binge drinking at least once in the previous month.

Cannabis is main drug abused by adolescents

Almost one in five (18%) 15 and 16-year-olds had used an illegal drug at least once, the most common being cannabis.

Of those answering the questionnaire, 16% had taken cannabis before and 7% had used it within the previous 30 days. These figures are higher than in 1995, suggesting that cannabis use in Europe has increased among teenagers.

New psychoactive substances (NPS) were also an issue with 4% having used them within their lifetime and 3% within the last year. This type of drug, previously referred to as a legal high, is now more popular among the 15-16 age group than amphetamines, ecstasy, cocaine and LSD.

Parents who are worried their teenager may be dabbling in illegal substances can check using a home drug testing kit. This simple low-cost urine test can tell you within minutes whether your son or daughter has illicit drugs in their system.

However, if you want to look at their drug use over a longer period, you can get a sample of their hair tested. This will tell you about any substances they have consumed in the months leading up to the test as the metabolites from these drugs will remain in the hair follicles as they grow.