40 per cent of S4 pupils in Borders are offered drugs

YOUNG people appear to be heeding warnings about the dangers of drink and drugs, a new report has shown.

Figures from the Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS) for 2010, published earlier this month, show what authors called a “notable decrease” in the proportion of 15-year-olds surveyed in the Borders who have ever tried drugs – from 30 per cent in 2006 down to 14 per cent last year, which was seven per cent below the national average.

More than 700 Borders teenagers completed the survey between September 2010 and February 2011. The findings show the prevalence of smoking, drinking and drug use among 13 and 15-year-olds attending schools in the Borders.

The proportion of 15-year-olds in the region who said they have used or taken drugs was below the national average (14 per cent in the Borders compared with 21 per cent nationally), but the classroom survey found that 40 per cent of Borders 15-year-olds have been offered drugs. It also found that 11 per cent of 13-year-olds in the region have been offered substances such as cannabis, cocaine and poppers - with five per cent admitting to taking at least one of the drugs, and four per cent reported that they had used or taken drugs in the year prior to the 2010 survey.

Compared with 2006, there was a marked decrease in the proportion of Borders 15-year-olds who had taken drugs in the year prior to the survey (from 27 per cent in 2006 to 11 per cent in 2010). There had also been a drop in the proportion of 15-year-olds who reported that they usually took drugs at least once a week: from 4 per cent in 2006 to 1 per cent in 2010.

The most common drug was cannabis: 10 per cent of 15-year-olds and three per cent of 13-year-olds surveyed had used cannabis in the last year - but others included cocaine, which had been taken by one percent of 15 and 13-year-olds, and heroin, which had also been taken by one per cent of both the S2 and S4 pupils in the Borders who completed the survey.

The survey, which is carried out every four years, found a drop in the numbers who drink alcohol and smoke. Currently two per cent of 13-year-olds smoke and 11 per cent of 15-year-olds light up - both down on 2006 figures.

A total of 49 per cent of the 13-year-olds surveyed had tried alcohol - compared with 56 per cent four years ago. And the 15-year-olds drink figures also dropped from 92 per cent to 83 per cent.

Despite this, experts warned the study could mask the dangers of young people continuing to drink to excess.

John Arthur, national director of drugs information organisation Crew2000, said the figures reflected wider trends.

He said: “There’s a kind of downward trend nationwide, but there are also figures that state that those who are drinking are drinking more.

“I think a lot of people have got the message that drinking alcohol, even in small amounts, can harm you, so I think people are stepping back from that and are more health conscious.

“But the combination of availability, accessibility of much stronger alcohol and the relative cheapness is meaning that some people can and do drink much more.”