Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS): Drug Use Report 2015

This report presents the drugs findings from the 2015 wave of the Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS).

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1 Introduction and background

This report presents the drug use findings from the 2015 wave of the Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey. The research was commissioned by the Scottish Government and carried out by Ipsos MORI Scotland.

Survey background

The Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey ( 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) within the context of other lifestyle, health and social factors. Since 2002, Scotland has developed its own, more tailored survey known as SALSUS.

Survey purpose

SALSUS measures progress towards Scottish Government targets for smoking and drug use, and is used to inform the Scottish Government priority of addressing harmful drinking among young people.

The survey series also provides local prevalence rates for smoking, drinking and drug use across Alcohol and Drug Partnerships ( ADPs), local authorities and NHS Boards. SALSUS data are used in a number of the ADP national core indicators, which allows the ADPs to monitor their progress against a common set of outcomes. ADPs and their community planning partners make extensive use of SALSUS data in local needs assessments and in developing their strategic priorities.

Policy background

' The Road to Recovery' [2] outlines the Scottish Government's national performance framework for drug prevention and rehabilitation, embedded within an understanding of social exclusion and health inequality. The framework promotes the concept of recovery among service users and providers, and seeks to integrate a range of drug treatment and rehabilitation services. The strategy stresses preventative action in families, specifying the need to educate children about drug use through Curriculum for Excellence, the schools based substance use education resource 'Choices for Life', and the drug prevention campaign 'Know the Score'. Additionally, the framework seeks to reduce waiting times for referral to services for drug related problems within three weeks under the Scottish Government's Local Delivery Plan ( LDP) standard.

' The Road to Recovery' is delivered by 30 ADPs alongside a number of initiatives and partner organisations including the Scottish Recovery Consortium, which is a nationally commissioned organisation that supports recovery from problem drug use. Scottish Government officials are currently making arrangements with a range of partners and experts to support the ' The Road to Recovery' going forward, and who will work in collaboration with Scottish Government to help further deliver the strategy.

In 2014, the Scottish Government began a programme of work to strengthen the evidence base on new psychoactive substances ( NPS), supported by an NPS Evidence Group. This group was composed of stakeholders from academia, health, enforcement and the third sector (amongst others). As part of this work the Scottish Government commissioned research to identify the prevalence and harms of NPS use among vulnerable groups in Scotland, due to be published in late 2016.

The Scottish Government also worked closely with the Home Office to implement the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016, which was introduced on 26 May 2016. This legislation creates offences to tackle the sale and supply of psychoactive substances.


SALSUS is a self-completion survey administered by teachers in a mixed ability class, under exam conditions. In the past, the survey has been completed on paper, but for the first time in the 2015 wave, half of the sample completed the survey online [3] .

A random, nationally representative sample of S2 and S4 pupils in school was selected with classes as the primary sampling unit. All local authority and independent schools in Scotland were eligible for inclusion in the sample, with the exception of special schools.

Fieldwork was completed between September 2015 and January 2016. A total of 13,607 S2 and 11,697 S4 pupils responded.

Throughout the report, pupils in S2 are referred to as '13 year olds' and S4 pupils are referred to as '15 year olds' for ease. It should be borne in mind that some pupils within these categories may be slightly older or younger.

Some pupils did not answer each question. Where answers are missing, these have been excluded from the analysis and so charts and tables that describe the same population may have varying bases. When differences between estimates are specifically commented on in the report, these differences are statistically significant to the level of 0.05.

Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Robust subgroup analyses are not possible for 13 year olds who used drugs in the last month as the base size is now so low, hence limited comparisons, such as gender differences are presented.

For full details of the methodology, please see the SALSUS 2015 Technical Report [4] .

Finally, it is important to note that, while there are associations between many of the behaviours explored in this report, conclusions about causality cannot be drawn.

Changes to the questionnaire

Eight new drug use questions were added and changes were made to three existing drug use questions. No questions were removed. For detail on drugs question changes see Appendix A. For further details on other question changes and survey methodology see the SALSUS 2015 Technical Report and full 2015 Questionnaire [5] .


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