This report presents the drug use findings from the 2018 wave of the Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS). The research was commissioned by the Scottish Government and carried out by Ipsos MORI Scotland.
Survey background and purpose
SALSUS is a continuation of a long established series of national surveys on smoking, drinking and drug use. These were carried out jointly in Scotland and England between 1982 and 2000, to provide a national picture of young peoples' smoking (from 1982), drinking (from 1990), and drug use (from 1998) behaviours within the context of other lifestyle, health and social factors. Since 2002, Scotland has developed its own, more tailored survey, known as SALSUS.
About the survey
SALSUS is a self-completion survey administered by teachers in a mixed ability class, under exam conditions. In 2018, schools were encouraged to administer the survey online (but could administer it on paper if that was more feasible). Fieldwork was undertaken between September 2018 and April 2019.
Figure 1 Numbers sampled and participated
The overall response rate was 52% based on class and pupil response rate.
For full details of the methodology please see the accompanying SALSUS 2018 Technical Report.
Prevalence and key trends
- 6% of 13 year olds and 21% of 15 year olds had ever used drugs.
- 4% of 13 year olds and 12% of 15 year olds reported using drugs in the last month.
- Drug use in the last month has been gradually decreasing since 2002, when 8% of 13 year olds and 23% of 15 year olds reported using drugs in the last month. However, between 2013 and 2018, there was an increase in the proportion of 13 year old and 15 year old boys who took drugs in the month prior to the survey (from 2% and 11% respectively in 2013, to 4% and 15% in 2018).
- Cannabis was the most widely used drug; 19% of 15 year olds had ever used cannabis.
- 6% of 15 year olds had ever taken ecstasy, 5% had ever taken cocaine, 5% had ever taken any form of Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS) and 5% had ever taken MDMA powder.
- 31% of 13 year olds and 42% of 15 year olds who had ever used drugs had been drinking alcohol the last time they had used drugs 15% of all pupils had used more than one drug (polydrug use) the last time they had used drugs.
- 36% of 13 year olds and 45% of 15 year olds who had ever taken drugs had experienced at least one negative effect as a result (in the last year). The most common effects were having an argument, vomiting, and doing something they later regretted.
- It was most common for pupils to have used drugs out in the street or in someone else's home.
Sources and availability
- 22% of 13 year olds and 47% of 15 year olds had ever been offered drugs. There was an increase in the proportion who had ever been offered drugs between 2015 and 2018 (from 19% to 22% among 13 year olds and from 42% to 47% among 15 year olds).
- 15 year old pupils were most commonly offered cannabis. 37% of all 15 year olds had been offered cannabis, 18% had been offered ecstasy, 15% had been offered cocaine, and 14% had been offered MDMA powder or some form of NPS.
- Since 2015, there has been an increase in the proportions of 15 year olds who have been offered cannabis, cocaine, MDMA powder, LSD and ketamine.
- It was most common for pupils who had ever taken drugs to get them from friends (friends of the same age or older).
Attitudes to drugs
- Among 15 year olds, the acceptability of trying cannabis and sniffing glue has increased since 2015 – 33% of 15 year olds thought it was 'ok' to try cannabis, compared with 24% in 2015, and 11% thought it was 'ok' to try sniffing glue, compared with 7% in 2015.
- 9% of 15 year olds thought it was 'ok' to try cocaine.
First and foremost, we would like to thank all of the pupils who participated in the 2018 Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS).
We would also like to thank the schools that participated and, in particular, the teachers who organised and administered the survey. In addition, we would like to thank individuals from Alcohol and Drug Partnerships (ADPs) and local authority education departments who encouraged schools to take part.
We are grateful to Scottish Government colleagues for their help and guidance over the life of the project, and in particular to Carol Brown and Neil White for their support throughout.
Finally, we would like to acknowledge the contributions of many Ipsos MORI colleagues, in particular: Lucy Setterfield, Lorraine Murray, Chris Martin, Melissa Behm, Yinka Oluwi, Russell Painter and Kevin Pickering.
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