Britons are Europe's biggest drug-takers

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The Independent Online
FRANCE HAS its vin ordinaire, Italy its Peroni beer. In Britain the mind-altering substance of choice is Cannabis sativa. In an EU league of illicit drug consumption, the British come top.

Up to 40 per cent of Britons aged 15 and 16 have tried cannabis; 20 per cent have tried solvents. As for heroin, 2 per cent of the British have used it - the highest total in Europe.

Not only teenagers are puffing on cigarettes of uncertain origin or baking fairy cakes with added ingredients. The survey by the Lisbon-based European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, published in Berlin yesterday, indicates that in all age groups, more people used cannabis in Britain in the past year than in any other country.

About 9 per cent of adults in England and Wales took it, compared with 1 per cent in Sweden. The use of Ecstasy, amphetamines and LSD in England and Wales is also unsurpassed in the EU. Whether out of boredom and despair or the pursuit of heightened sensation, drugs are a defining feature of Blair's Britain.