Irish teens drink more but less often than average


IRISH SECONDARY school students drink alcohol less often than their European peers but consume more when they drink, according to a European survey published yesterday.

Some 50 per cent of Irish 15- and 16-year-olds surveyed for the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs had drunk alcohol in the previous 30 days, 7 per cent below the European average.

Two out of five reported having five or more drinks in one sitting over the past 30 days, which was slightly above the European norm. 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.

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

A total of 19 per cent of Irish teenagers surveyed had tried illicit drugs, a drop from 37 per cent among a similar group in 1995. The number who had ever used cannabis has also fallen – by 19 percentage points. The 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 than their European counterparts, with 23 per cent of girls and 19 per cent of boys having smoked in the last month, compared to a 28 per cent average among both sexes across Europe.

The percentage of 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. Cider was the drink of choice for girls, 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 had been drunk in the past 30 days. This compared with an overall European average of 17 per cent.