A survey of 6,500 15-18 year olds conducted by the DSM Foundation has found that 95 per cent of respondents say vaping is one of the most widely used substances among their peers, while over 70 per cent name it as causing the most problems.
The survey was undertaken during the 2022-23 academic year and focused on the drugs education received by the students, their attitudes and perceptions towards substance use and their motivations for using drugs.
When asked which substances their peers use, vaping was the most popular answer, followed by alcohol (93 per cent), cigarettes (76 per cent) and cannabis/weed (74 per cent). Cannabis edibles (44 per cent), nitrous oxide (30 per cent), ketamine (27 per cent) and cocaine (20 per cent) were also mentioned, with other substances accounting for less.
Vaping was again the most commonly mentioned substance in response to the question about which substances cause the most problems, followed by alcohol (56 per cent), cigarettes (41 per cent) and cannabis/weed (37 per cent).
When asked about the acceptability of substance use, 62 per cent of respondents regarded regular use of vaping as acceptable, with alcohol next at 52 per cent. Cannabis/weed and cannabis edibles both scored 36 per cent for acceptability to use occasionally, while benzodiazepines/Xanax was the most unacceptably substance, scoring 65 per cent for “not OK”.
The survey revealed that “curiosity”, “socializing” and “for fun/relaxation” were the most commonly cited reasons for someone their age using drugs, but over half of the respondents also mentioned “pressure” as one of the top three reasons. Furthermore, 42 per cent mentioned “coping with problems” and 28 per cent “addiction”.
Commenting on the findings, DSM Foundation Director, Founder and Dan’s mum Fiona Spargo-Mabbs said: “These data are incredibly useful for us in planning our drug education to make sure we meet the needs and priorities of students, but they also provide an invaluable insight into evolving trends, attitudes and behaviours, which inform all our wider work. The DSM Foundation shares the concerns of so many, seeing the levels of vaping rising so rapidly, especially since disposable vapes make this so attractive, accessible and easy for young people to do, presenting huge challenges to schools. Education is absolutely key to addressing this, for both young people and parents, alongside effective enforcement of regulations restricting exposure and availability to young people in real world situations.”
The DSM Foundation was established in 2014 following the death of 16 year old Daniel Spargo-Mabbs from an accidental overdose of ecstasy. It provides young people with relevant, age-appropriate, up to date and evidence-based information about drugs, does a lot of work in schools, colleges and community organisations with children and young people, and also provides workshops for parents and caregivers, and training for school and college staff.
According to Fiona Spargo-Mabbs, the survey’s findings demonstrate the need for ongoing vigilance in order to ensure young people are educated and supported to make safer choices about drugs: “We also mustn’t lose sight of the spectrum of issues, risks and challenges our young people face around other substances they can find themselves making decisions about, and their shifting attitudes and perceptions, such as the ever-increasing acceptability of cannabis use by adolescents. We need to remain vigilant, to listen to young people, and to make sure we work together across our communities to educate and support them to make safer choices about drugs, whatever form these take.”