Trends in substance use among children

A National Statistics publication for Scotland.

Substance use prevalence has remained largely stable since 2013, against a backdrop of considerable decline over the last couple of decades.
Scotland’s Chief Statistician today released results from The Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS) 2015, providing information on tobacco, alcohol, and drug use among Scotland’s secondary school children.

Drug use

In 2015, 19% of 13 year olds and 42% of 15 year olds had ever been offered drugs. This is a 5% increase for both age groups since 2013. There has also been an increase in the proportion who say they would find it easy to obtain drugs if they wanted to. However, drug use prevalence has remained relatively stable between 2013 and 2015, with the exception of a small increase in drug use in the last month amongst 15 year old boys.

Use of new psychoactive substances was low, with 5% of 15 year olds reporting use of NPS ever, and 2% reporting use of NPS in the last month.

Smoking rates

Smoking prevalence amongst young people has dropped markedly over time, and there has been a further small decrease in smoking prevalence among 15 year old girls between 2013 and 2015. In 2015, 2% of 13 year olds, and 7% of 15 year olds were regular smokers.

Alcohol use

The proportion of pupils who have ever had an alcoholic drink has decreased again since 2013. Less than a third of 13 year old pupils have ever had an alcoholic drink, while two-thirds of 15 year olds had ever had one. This is the lowest rate since the survey began. However, there has been an increase in the proportion of 13 year olds who reported being drunk in the past week.

Other key findings from the report show:

Overall, the vast majority of young people were not regular users of any substances in 2015. This was the case for 80% of 15 year olds and 95% of 13 year olds.

The figures released today were produced in accordance with professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.


This release was amended on 28 October 2016 to correct an error in the way that change over time was reported in smoking prevalence. Instead of ‘no change’ between 2013 and 2015 there was a further small decrease in prevalence among 15 year old girls.


The full reports are available at:

Official statistics are produced in accordance with professional standards. More information on the standards of official statistics in Scotland can be accessed at:


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