Drugs use admitted by 1 in 3 of the young

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The Independent Online
UP TO A THIRD of young people have tried illegal drugs by the age of 20, and chemicals such as LSD and ecstasy are now firmly established in mass youth culture, according to an audit of drug use in Britain.

The popularity of all-night dance parties and 'raves' is largely to blame for the fact that more young people are now using a wider range of drugs.

The Institute for the Study of Drug Dependency, which carried out the audit, found that the use of some hallucinogenic drugs and stimulants has doubled since the early 1980s. Jasper Woodcock, the institute's director, said drugs had become 'simply another aspect of mainstream popular culture'.

In 1983, between 1 and 2 per cent of school-leavers said they had tried LSD, and ecstasy was unknown. Now both drugs have been tried by about 5 per cent of 15- to 16-year-olds. About 10 per cent - more than half a million young people - have tried amphetamines, the report said.

Some drugs known as 'niche' drugs, because they are popular with certain groups and sub-cultures, are now moving into the mainstream. Nitrites, or 'poppers', were common in the homosexual club scene, but are now being used at raves. Steroid abuse, as an aid to muscle development for body builders and sportsmen, is spreading to young men who simply want to 'look good'. However, cannabis remains the most commonly misused drug in Britain.

National Audit of Drug Misuse in Britain 1992; 1 Hatton Place, London EC1 8ND; pounds 8.