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School survey results on drugs and alcohol habits 4 February 2008

A MAJOR survey of the alcohol and drugs habits of 15 and 16 year-olds on the Island shows some trends in the right direction as well as continuing challenges.

A total of 775 Isle of Man students completed the national ESPAD (European School Survey Project for Alcohol and other Drugs) questionnaire last year, following the Island’s participation in the previous survey carried out in 2003. Participation was very high: 82% of the target group completed the survey.

The results will be analysed under the auspices of the Government’s Social Policy Committee, chaired by Chief Minister Tony Brown MHK, in order to shape future policies and initiatives to combat drug and alcohol misuse under the umbrella of the Drugs and Alcohol Strategy.

Initial findings published today indicate some positive changes since 2003:

  • The number of those who abstain from drinking or drink only occasionally increased from 17% to 20% (respondents answered ‘none’ or ‘1-2 occasions’ for ‘last year’ alcohol consumption).
  • The age of first episode of drunkenness has increased from 13 years to 14-15 years.
  • Cannabis remains the drug of choice but its use appears to be decreasing: those who have ever used it went from 39% to 35%; those who used it in the last year went from 34% to 27%; and in last month from 21% to 18%.
  • The perception of ‘easy’ availability of cannabis decreased from 55% to 46%.
  • A decrease from 35% to 23% in the perception of ‘easy’ availability of Ecstasy was noted.
  • Tobacco use shows a drop from 30% to 26% in ‘last month’ use, marking a positive change in the current smoking prevalence in this age group.

However challenges still remain:

  • Increased frequency of binge drinking and intoxication for a small proportion of 15-16 year olds from 9% to 14% who reported on six or more occasions in the ‘last month’ category.
  • There are marked changes in the places where alcohol is consumed: public unlicensed places (street, beach, park, etc.) have increased from 11% to 23%, and at someone else’s home from 37% to 45%.
  • Inhalants or volatile substances show no change in use – the proportion who have ever used it remains at 18%.
  • An increase from 54% to 68% is observed in the perception of availability of inhalants or volatile substances (‘easy’ or ‘fairly easy’ to obtain).

The Chief Minister commented:

‘These initial results complement information from other sources which is used by the Drug and Alcohol Strategy to establish a clear picture of alcohol and drug use in our school population aged 15 and 16 years. Protecting our community from the harm caused by alcohol and drug misuse is a priority for Government and progress is being made. But this is a long-term cultural challenge and there is no room for complacency.’

Home Affairs Minister Martyn Quayle MHK said:

‘The 2007 results show changes, some in the right direction, but we still have challenges ahead. Drinking in public unlicensed places, intoxication in public places and binge drinking with its consequences such as acute intoxication are among the challenges highlighted by the findings in the alcohol area. Illicit drugs still pose problems and we will be able to prioritise actions based on these results.
‘The Department of Home Affairs leads on the strategy overall as it has to co-ordinate and balance the three main areas of education, prevention and protection, community safety and treatment and support related to drugs and alcohol. The short- and long-term health effects of intoxication due to alcohol misuse are considered by the Department of Health and Social Security, whilst the Department of Education leads on universal health education and a liaison service between schools, students and parents. There are many agencies working together under the umbrella of this strategy and local evidence assists them in planning services.’

The ESPAD study is led from the International Centre for Research on Alcohol and Drugs in Sweden under the auspices of the European Council (the Pompidou Group) and the European Commission (European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction). Surveys have been carried out every fourth year since the study commenced in 1995. There are now around 40 participating countries. The Isle of Man participated for the first time in 2003. The national ESPAD report is produced by the Department of Home Affairs with Dr Andreea Steriu as Principal Investigator.

More information on ESPAD can be found at:

The full international report of ESPAD 2007 will be made public at the end of 2008 and launched simultaneously in all participating countries on the same day. Meanwhile, a copy of the initial findings from the Isle of Man’s participation can be found on Department of Home Affairs’ website at:

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