Four out of five young Europeans say it is easy to get hold of drugs

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The Independent Online

Nearly four out of five young Europeans say getting hold of illegal drugs is easy, according to one of the largest surveys carried out into young people's attitudes towards drug-taking. Most teenagers and young adults living in Europe experiment with cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine out of curiosity but a growing number - 21 per cent compared with 16 per cent two years ago - say drug-taking is a recreational hobby.

These are some of the findings of a European Commission poll of nearly 8,000 young people aged between 15 to 24 in 15 countries, including Britain, France and Spain.

The study, Young People and Drugs, presents a disturbing picture of the widespread use of drugs across Europe and of the ignorance of teenagers towards the dangers of hard drugs. Cannabis use has also become more common since the last EU poll was carried out in 2002.

The easiest place to obtain drugs in any of the countries surveyed is at parties, followed by pubs and clubs. Spain is where the greatest number of young people say they find it easy to obtain drugs. In Britain, more than half of young people say it is easy to get drugs at school or near the school - below the EU average of 57 per cent.

The Flash Eurobarometer poll, which was last carried out between April and May this year, also shows that the British and Irish are more likely than other Europeans to think occasional ecstasy use is harmless.

More than four out of five young people across the EU think heroin is a more dangerous drug than cocaine or crack. In the poll, cannabis is rated just above cigarettes and alcohol by those surveyed in terms of its impact on health.

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