Drug and alcohol use among young people

Young people are often at the leading edge of social change, and upward trends in alcohol and illicit drug use by young people constitute an important social development in the EU. The inclusion of alcohol in this section of the report is new and arose out of concerns about complex patterns of substance use and associated dependency, health damage and criminal behaviour. These patterns of psychoactive substance use present a particular challenge for policy-makers to develop an appropriately wide and timely range of responses for effective action.

The EU has set itself a target to reduce significantly, over a period of five years, the prevalence of illicit drug use, as well as recruitment to it, particularly among young people under 18 years of age, and to develop innovative approaches to prevention (COR 32).

Material consulted in the writing of this chapter includes the Reitox national reports and population survey data. Comparable data on young people are largely based on the European school survey project (ESPAD) reports from 1995 and 1999 (ESPAD, 1999), which covered 15- to 16-year-old school students and in which nine Member States participated. The data from the Netherlands in ESPAD surveys are not strictly comparable with those from other participating Member States. Published research, grey literature (89) and government publications on drugs and alcohol use by young people (particularly from France and the United Kingdom) have also been used for reference.


(89) Defined as ‘a document which has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal’. For more information see QED network journal.