Girls overtake boys in the drugs league

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The Independent Online
Teenage girls are for the first time taking more of some drugs, including amphetamines and tranquillisers, than boys, according to the country's largest survey of children.

Girls aged 12-15 also admitted to experimenting with more solvents, and in a smaller age range, cocaine and barbiturates, than boys of the same age.

Overall the unpublished study, in which 22,000 children in England were questioned, indicates that about two in five young people will have taken drugs by the age of 16.

The trend for increasing drug use among girls will cause grave concern among parents. There is already evidence that teenage girls smoke more than boys and are drinking increasing amounts of alcohol.

But until now, research has suggested that teenage boys have a bigger appetite for illegal substances. Previous surveys have found that girls sniff more solvents than boys.

The results of Exeter University's survey, details of which are revealed in the Institute for the Study of Drug Dependence's magazine, Druglink, show the gap between boys and girls is closing. While the differences between the sexes are small, the trend is significant.

For amphetamines, 9.6 per cent of girls aged 14-15 said they had misused the drug compared with 8.9 per cent of boys. In the 13- to 14-year-old category, girls were also the biggest consumers.

Girls aged 14-15 also took more tranquillisers - 2.7 per cent compared with two per cent - than boys. There was also a tiny proportion higher in the group aged 13-14.

Female users of cocaine were 0.1 per cent more common than 14- 15-year- old boys, although only 1.2 per cent admitted having taken the drug. There was a similar difference for 13- 14-year-old barbiturate users. Equal numbers of boys and girls - about four in ten - were offered drugs.

Cannabis had been tried by nearly a third of the sample, followed by amphetamine, LSD, magic mushrooms, solvents and ecstasy. Overall, boys still take more illegal substances than girls.