Irish teens drink 'more but less often'


Irish secondary school students drink alcohol less frequently than their European peers but consume more when they drink, according to a European survey published today.

The European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) showed 50 per cent of all Irish 15- and 16-year-olds surveyed had consumed alcohol in the previous 30 days, seven per cent below the European average.

Two out of every five Irish students reported having five or more drinks in one sitting over the past 30 days, which was slightly above the European norm, but average alcohol consumption on the last drinking day among the Irish cohort was 6.7cl of pure alcohol, compared to 5.1cl across the rest of Europe.

In Ireland, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to buy alcohol or to consume it unless they are in a private residence and have parental consent.

ESPAD is the largest cross-national research project on adolescent substance use in the world. The 2011 study is the fifth of its kind to be carried out since 1995.

Data was collected from more than 100,000 students in 37 countries in spring 2011.

Questionnaires were distributed in the classroom and answered anonymously by students under the supervision of a teacher or research assistant, with 2,207 responses from Irish students.

A total of 19 per cent of Irish students surveyed had tried illicit drugs, a drop from 37 per cent among a similar cohort in 1995. Lifetime use of cannabis has also fallen by 19 percentage points.

Use of illicit drugs, cannabis and inhalants among Irish students is now in line with European averages.

Irish students also reported less use of cigarettes during the past month than their European counterparts, with 23 per cent of girls and 19 per cent of boys admitting to having smoked, compared to a 28 per cent average among both sexes across Europe.

Overall, the percentage of cigarette smokers in this age group in Ireland has halved since 1995.

Beer was the most popular beverage among Irish boys, with 47 per cent consuming it the last time they drank, while cider was the drink of choice for females, with 37 per cent of girls consuming it on the last occasion.

A total of 37 per cent of the Irish students surveyed reported being intoxicated in the past 12 months, and 23 per cent were drunk in the past 30 days. This compared with an overall European average of 17 per cent.

The Irish survey was carried out by Dr Mark Morgan of the department of education and human development in St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra.