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Average Italian teen heroin user starts at 14, survey shows

Teen drug use on the rise says survey of 45,000 students

17 March, 18:28
Average Italian teen heroin user starts at 14, survey shows (updates previous) (ANSA) - Rome, March 17 - In Italy, the average teenage heroin smoker starts at 14, new data showed Monday. A 2013 European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) survey of 45,000 students in 516 high schools all over Italy conducted by the National Research Council (CNR) also found overall cannabis use picked up in 2012-2013, with 25% of respondents saying they smoked it in the past year, 16% saying they did so in the previous 30 days, and one in five, or 75,000 kids, saying they smoke it more than 20 times a month.

Three in 10 kids said they tried it at least once, 61% said they use it not more than 10 times a year, and another 27% said they smoke marijuana 20 or more times a year.

Of the cannabis users, 84% said they don't use any other illegal substances. However 62% are habitual cigarette smokers, 11% drink alcohol on an almost daily basis, and 14% take antidepressants without a prescription.

After growing steadily through 2007, teen cocaine use declined through 2012, only to pick up once more in 2013, with experimental consumption up by 4.1% and quantities consumed yearly up by 2.8%.

While the overall number of teens using cocaine has decreased, the number of habitual users grew to a peak of 0.8% in 2013.

As far as heroin and other opiates, ESPAD found that 1.5% or 36,000 kids tried this class of drugs at least once, 28,000 or 1.2% tried them in the previous year, 23,000 or 1% in the previous month, and 15,000, or 0.7%, reported frequent use.

Teen heroin use has been on the rise since 2009, peaking in 2013, while the age of first use dropped from 15 to 14 in the same period. This could be because kids are smoking rather than injecting it, researchers said.

The survey also found that 4% of respondents said they tried a synthetic drug such as ecstacy, amphetamines, LSD, GHB, or Ketamine at least once, while 3% said they partook of one of these in the previous year. The latter two drugs were the least used, at 1% and 2% respectively.

A 60% majority reported occasional synthetic drug use, with one in three saying they consumed such drugs 20 or more times a year.

On the legal drug front, just 11% of kids said they drank no alcohol during the year, while 5% reported drinking almost every day, preferably beer. Another 35%, or 850,000 students, reported binge drinking at least once in the prior month, with 14% of these saying they indulged to excess six or more times in the same period.

The latest fad is taking antidepressants without a prescription and mixing them with illegal drugs in order to strengthen their effects or to avoid the subsequent down, with 17% of students saying they tried it at least once and 9% reporting they have used sleeping pills during the year.

Twice as many girls, or 12%, used this combination as boys, ESPAD found.