Seventy-one per cent of 15- to 16-year-olds have been offered drugs and nearly half have tried them, according to a 1994 Manchester University survey of 752 young people. Forty per cent had tried cannabis; 25 per cent had taken LSD; 22 per cent poppers (amyl nitrate); 15 per cent speed or amphetamine sulphate; 13 per cent solvents; 12 per cent magic mushrooms; 7 per cent Ecstasy; 5 per cent tranquillisers; 4 per cent cocaine and 3 per cent heroin. Women were just as likely as men to have been offered and to have tried drugs.

A quarter of 15-to 16-year-olds and approximately 8 per cent of 13- to 14-year-olds had tried cannabis according to a 1993

Public Health report and an Exeter University study respectively.

Just over 3,000 under-16s were found guilty of drug offences in 1992, according to a 1994

Central Statistics Office report - which is nearly eight times the number in 1981. The same report showed that 66 per cent of 15-year-olds had tried smoking cigarettes. The average consumption among the 25 per cent of regular smokers was 36 cigarettes per week for boys, and 28 per week for girls.

A third of all 16- to 24- year-olds smoke, according to a 1993 survey by Mintel; this increases to 43 per cent among 20- to 24-year-olds - higher than for any other group of adults.

Twenty per cent of 9- to 15-year-olds have had their first alcoholic drink by the age of eight, and 12 per cent of 11- to 15-year-olds are regular drinkers, according to the 1994 annual report by the Government Chief Medical Officer.

Forty per cent of men and almost 20 per cent of women in the 20- to 24-year-old age group drink more than the recommended limits, according to a 1994 report by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys.

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