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A decline in drug use in England

Written by: Alan Baker 8th September, 2022

Young people, in particular boys, are more prone to experiment and take risks, including trying alcohol or new drugs for the first time.

After many years of increases, drug use in England has fallen by 12% in 2021. In 3 years, there has been a 24% decrease in the reporting of drug use in young people.

Statistics show that nearly 50% of children who have taken drugs have reported getting them from an acquaintance, whereas only 16% have reported getting it from a ‘dealer’.

Despite the 5% decrease of cigarette smoking from 2018, the new and popular e-cigarettes have caused an 6% increase in use, reporting almost one in ten young people using these products. Although safer than traditional smoking, the use of e-cigarettes is still not risk free. Most products contain nicotine which creates physical and psychological dependency and the long-term effects are still unknown.

Alcohol levels have remained stable, with an unchanged figure from 2018. Despite this, there has been a rise in people saying they drink alone, this can increase the risk of harm and accidents occurring.


Nitrous oxide has featured in several reports, raising concerns in young people. However, the NHS digital report shows there has been a decrease in the popularity of this drug. There has been a 56% decrease from 2018.

Why is this happening? Students are under huge amounts of pressure to achieve highly in education; therefore they might be less likely to use substances which could alter their studies. Another reason is the recent pandemic which may have reduced the opportunities to use and get drugs, e.g. no parties.

With social media being a huge part of the majority of young people’s life, they may be conscious of how they are perceived online,any images or links of drug intoxication could be acting as a deterrent.


However nitrous is still the 3rd most frequently used drug, sold in a balloon selling from £3-£5 and £20 for a box of whippets, the small shiny canisters often see littering the streets. Heavier users who might be using hundreds of canisters a week could now be exposed to the same volume of gas through a smaller number of purchases. Extreme use of nitrous oxide could be fatal and lead to paralysis.                                                                                       


A new approach in the education of drugs? The most effective approach to educating around drugs is focusing on areas such as developing health and decision-making skills in young people and then how to deal with social situations in which a person may be offered drugs.