N E W S F E E D S >>>

Caithness News Bulletins September 2003

September News Index August News Index

Caithness.org News Index

Front Page Archives



The results of a survey into smoking and the use of drugs and drinking in the Highlands among 13 and 15-year-olds should act as a wake up call for the Highland community.

They show that Highland children are as likely as their counterparts in urban areas to smoke, drink and take drugs.  And there is a higher likelihood of a 15-year-old in Highland being offered drugs than elsewhere in Scotland. 70% of 15-year-olds who responded said they had been offered drugs – 5% more than the Scottish average.

908 pupils from 22 secondary schools in Highland took part in the 2002 Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey. The final survey response rate in Highland was 76%. This compares favourably with the national rate of 65%.

The main findings in Highland showed that:-

  • 9% of 13 year olds and 22% of 15 year olds were regular smokers.  Prevalence of regular smoking was not significantly different from the reported national prevalence for either age group.

  • 24% of 13 year olds and 49% of 15 year olds had drunk alcohol in the week prior to the survey.  Prevalence of drinking was not significantly different from the reported national prevalence for either age group

  • 8% of 13 year olds and 24% of 15 year olds had used drugs in the month prior to the survey.  Prevalence of drug use was not significantly different from the reported national prevalence for either age group

  • The differences in smoking, drinking and drug use between boys and girls in Highland was not statistically significant.

  • 15 year olds reported an the average age for first drinking or smoking of 12 years, but the average age for the first occasion of drug use was older at 13 years.

Bruce Robertson, Director of Education, Culture and Sport, said: “The main findings of the survey demonstrate that Highland cannot be complacent about smoking, drinking and drug use amongst its young people. It is a wake up call for our community. Our young people are subject to the same pressures as their peers in the rest of Scotland. They enjoy the benefits of a healthy environment, but the data shows that we must continue to encourage a choice of lifestyle which matches this setting.

“The outcomes of the survey will ensure a continued focus on this area of work.  Present measures to address smoking, alcohol and drug misuse should continue and must be rigorously monitored and evaluated, and further measures should be developed.

“There is also a need to ensure support to parents and communities to address the problems of teenage substance misuse, and to inform parents about strategies to address the problem.  Parents and local communities have a key role in addressing substance misuse by young people, and services must support them in this task.”

The survey will also be subject to a more detailed examination.  For example, the information about drinking reveals some potentially significant facts, indicating that additional measures should be contemplated.

He said that data concerning drinking showed that amongst regular drinkers the average age on which they had first got drunk was 13 years; that boys who drank over the previous seven days consumed on average 13 units of alcohol and girls 11 units – most of this consumption in a single session; that 54% of young people who drank reported that their parents did not mind their drinking.

Given these statistics, it was important that primary school alcohol education programmes took account of binge drinking and the young age of those drinking to excess.

The findings of the survey will be reported to a meeting of the Joint Committee on Children and Young People which is being held at Alness Academy on Friday 29 September.

A report to be considered by the Committee highlights current and further proposed measures, which include:

    ·       The Highland Drug and Alcohol Action Team has placed effective interventions with young people at the heart of its activity, and this is reflected in the Corporate Action Plan (Drug Strategy) and the Alcohol Strategy.  HDAAT continues to seek ways in which to support 'young people' to have a positive lifestyle, and seeks to develop the strategies in an integrated way with local partners. This type of approach resulted in the successful event in June of this year at Glenurquhart High School, where young people from across Highland were able to participate in a range of activities.

    ·  Support to reduce young people using substance is directed through the Youth Action Service partners, and in particular through locally based substance misuse officers and the NCH Mentoring Scheme.  The recently enhanced structures for the local management of Youth Action Teams is intended to strengthen these services.

    ·  Support and involvement is also offered to the Safe Highlanders Initiative aimed at Primary 7

    ·   The smoking cessation programme through schools is proving successful, and will continue to be

    ·   The Education, Culture and Sport Service will ensure that current in-service drug misuse training
         programmes for secondary school staff will take full account of alcohol issues.  During the Spring
         term of 2004, the Service will provide, in liaison with Scotland Against Drugs, a series of two-
         day training events for primary school staff.

    ·   In liaison with NHS Highland Health Promotion, Schools will provide information to parents
        about strategies for addressing drinking by young teenagers.

    ·   The Council and NHS Highland will continue to provide positive health messages to young people
        and families through the ‘Your Choice to Healthy Living’ initiative. This will be supported in
        particular by the Health Promoting Schools programme.