Czech teenagers top European tables in substance abuse survey

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A newly-released study on substance abuse among young people in Europe makes alarming reading for Czech officials. The results of the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs (ESPAD) carried out in 35 European countries in 2007 have just been released, and they show Czech teenagers topping many of the tables in terms of abuse of controlled substances such as alcohol, nicotine and drugs.

This exhaustive survey - 408 pages long – was carried out two years ago, and has only just been published. ESPAD asked more than 100,000 European students about their experiences with alcohol, smoking and drugs – when they first tried them, how often they indulged and how much they consumed. From that information the project has produced a number of comprehensive tables, graphs and lists, which feature Czech teenagers in prominent positions on those lists.

On smoking for example, 30% of Czech 15-18-year-olds said they smoked, compared to 26% of the adult Czech population. On average, Czech teenagers had their first puff on a cigarette at the age of 10 – the figure for Prague is nine years of age. This is towards the top of Europe’s underage smoking league table.

Czech teenagers also had their first experience with alcohol before most of their European counterparts – two-thirds of them before the age of 13. One third of 15-yr old boys and one-fifth of 15-year old girls said they drank beer or spirits on a weekly basis – in a country where the legal age for drinking is 18. When it comes to binge drinking, 23% of Czech 16-year-old boys and 17% of Czech 16-year-old girls said they had more than five drinks on a night out at least three times a month.

It’s in drugs where Czechs come into their own. The Czech Republic had the highest prevalence of teenage experience with cannabis – some 45% of Czechs aged between 15 and 16 were regular pot smokers according to the ESPAD survey.