A new survey on the use and attitudes towards drugs amongst young people has been released with some surprising results. Cannabis use is now so commonplace that one out of two people under 25 has used it at some point in their lives. What’s more, the use of other drugs is also on the rise, with increases observed over previous generations for everything from MDMA to laughing gas.
One young person out of two has already used cannabis in their life, according to an IFOP study that confirms the use of drugs is becoming commonplace among young people.
And this in all aspects of life, its consumption is no longer strictly festive, to which it is often associated culturally.
Cannabis, along with types of drugs, are also found in other parts of daily life: for example in a couple, during the moments of solitude, but also at the hours of work that it is in presential or in teleworking.
All of this with consequences that are often harmful, as observed by the young consumers themselves.
The Key Figures on Drugs
Increased experimentation with cannabis goes hand in hand with that of hard drugs. Today, one out of two young people (50%) under the age of 25 has already used a drug (cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy…) at least once in their life.
But for most of them, it is a “soft” drug such as cannabis. Indeed, 47% have already smoked cannabis in their lives, including nearly one in four (22%) during the last twelve months.
This use of cannabis is spreading slowly but surely, judging by the growing proportion of young adults who have already used it in their lives: 56% of young people aged 18 to 24 have done so, an increase of 9 points in 12 years (baromètre santé Publique France – 2005).
Nitrous oxide, more commonly known as “laughing gas” or “proto”, is the second most-consumed psychoactive product among young people under 25 (11%).
More worryingly, experimentation with hard drugs is no longer as marginal as it was twelve years ago: cocaine (7%, +3.6 pts since 2005), MDMA (7%, +3 pts), LSD (6%, +4.6 pts), and other amphetamines (6%, +5 pts) all seem to be on the rise among young people aged 18-24 years since 2005.
The Expansion of Drug Use Scenarios
More than two out of five drug users (42%) have already used drugs at work or at a place of study. And in the professional context, we also note that 21% of the cannabis users have already smoked it during remote work, with another 22% who’ve used cannabis during in-person work. Another 16% said they’d used it before a job interview.
More than one young user out of two (51%) has already smoked cannabis only with his or her partner (51%) and one out of four before a romantic rendezvous.
Two out of five have already experimented with at least one drug before a sexual relationship (40%), more to relax (34%) than to perform well (15%); experiences that can lead to regret and addiction.
Just over half of drug experimenters have regretted their use (51%), especially regular users (66%).
More than a quarter of young users admit to ever having felt dependent or addicted to a drug (26%). And more than a third of those who have used drugs during sexual intercourse have regretted it (35%), with more women (39%) than men (29%) expressing regret.
The Main Findings of the Survey
A) THE USE OF CANNABIS, BUT ALSO OF OTHER DRUGS, IS BECOMING COMMONPLACE AMONG YOUNG PEOPLE
- 50% of young people have already used drugs at least once. Most often it is cannabis: 47% of 15-24 year olds have already used cannabis in their lifetime. Nearly a quarter (22%) are even current users (i.e. have used cannabis in the past year). The main current consumers are young workers (33%) but also executives (28%) and supporters of left-wing parties (EELV: 32%, PS: 31%). And very often the consumers try different substances: 52% of the experimenters of hard drugs also consumed cannabis in the year.
- Cannabis is by far the drug most used by 15-24 year olds, ahead of laughing gas/Proto (11% of young people have used it in their lifetime), the use of which as a euphoriant is a recent fashion phenomenon among young people. Next come hard drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy or LSD (5% of young people have experimented with each of these), the extent of whose use may seem more insignificant but has in fact been increasing over the last fifteen years.
- Youth use of cannabis and especially hard drugs has increased significantly over the last fifteen years
- Since 2005, cannabis use among young adults has increased significantly (56% of 18-24 year olds have used it in their lifetime, +8 pts). Even more worrying is the fact that experimentation with various hard drugs has at least doubled over the period. This is the case for cocaine (7%, +3.6 pts in fifteen years), ecstasy (7%, +3 pts), LSD (6%, +4.6 pts) and amphetamines (6%, +5 pts).
- Although nearly one young user in two (48%) has already obtained drugs from friends, the network of friends is far from being the only source of supply that they can mobilize. Nearly one third have obtained drugs from school friends (35%) or from a dealer they have known before (31%). A quarter of young users (25%) have also obtained drugs from a dealer they did not know before.
- The professional field is not spared: one in five (20%) of the users who have worked with colleagues have already obtained drugs from at least one of them. Other areas that facilitate the trivialization of drug use: 17% of young users have already obtained drugs legally abroad (e.g. in the Netherlands, a possibility that may soon also be offered by Germany for cannabis) and 12% have obtained them on the Internet.
B) COUPLES, LONELINESS, WORK: A CONSUMPTION THAT GOES BEYOND FESTIVE AND FRIENDLY TIMES
- A large majority of cannabis users have already smoked it with friends (88%) or at a party (85%). This is the case for 91% of 15 to 17 year-old users, 96% of young working-class users and 99% of regular users. However, if these contexts are almost unavoidable for cannabis smokers, we find far from negligible proportions of young people who have used in other contexts.
- Thus, one out of two young users who have ever been in a relationship has smoked cannabis only in the company of his or her partner (51%) and a quarter before a date (25%). More worryingly, two out of five young users have smoked alone (39%, and 33% of users of other drugs have smoked alone). Another particularly dangerous point is that nearly a quarter of young users have already smoked cannabis before driving (23%, and 20% for other drugs).
- Work is not spared either: 22% of young users (with work experience) have already smoked cannabis before or during their working hours. This figure is even 33% for users of other drugs! Similarly, 21% of the young people concerned have already used cannabis while teleworking, with 39% in this case for experimenters with other drugs.
- More than two out of five young users (42%) have already used drugs at work or in a place of study. In the general population, this means that one young person in five has used drugs at work or at school. The main reasons for this use (34%) are relaxation (whether for pleasure or to cope with a stressful environment) before addiction (16%) or the desire to perform better (16%).
- Two-fifths of young people aged 15 to 24 who have already tried at least one drug have taken one before having sex (40%, and even 45% among female users). Contrary to popular belief, this is less a question of performance (15%) than of pleasure. In fact, one third have already taken drugs during sex in order to relax (34%) and one quarter for the aphrodisiac side (27%).
C) BETWEEN ADDICTIONS AND LIBIDO PROBLEMS: THE CONCRETE NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES OF SEEKING ESCAPE THROUGH DRUGS
- More than half of young experimenters have already had at least one negative experience as a result of drug use
- Slightly more than half of drug experimenters have ever regretted their drug use (51%). This experience is particularly prevalent among regular cannabis users (66%) and the profiles among which the most users are found (blue-collar workers: 72%, executives: 52%). A good quarter of young users have already regretted what they had said or done under the influence of drugs (28%, 45% of regular cannabis users and 35% of users aged 15 to 17).
- A significant proportion of young people who have used drugs before having sex report having had negative experiences in this context. More than two out of five of them have already experienced that drugs break their libido (43%). Moreover, one third of them have already regretted having had sex with someone on drugs (35%, including 39% of the young female users concerned).
- In addition to the bad experiences mentioned above, more than a quarter of young users admit to having already felt dependent or addicted to a drug (26%, including 8% who are “completely” dependent). Among these addicted users (or those who have already been addicted) are obviously the most regular cannabis users (53%), but also the most disadvantaged categories: working-class users (62%), Muslims (41%), from working-class suburbs (38%) and those with few qualifications (36%).
- 9 / Visible but moderately effective prevention campaigns
- Three quarters of drug users have already been exposed to a drug prevention campaign (75%). On the other hand, these campaigns were ineffective for a majority of them, since only 29% of the young people concerned have reduced or stopped their consumption following one of these campaigns (15% have stopped, 14% have reduced their consumption). The effect was not as great as the public health problem that drugs represent for young people, but it was not totally null. Nearly half of the workers concerned (45%) or consumers living in a working class suburb (44%) have nevertheless reduced or even stopped their consumption after being exposed to one of these campaigns.
Gautier Jardon’s (IFOP) Point of View
Beyond the festive context, recently illustrated by the phenomenon of proto consumed in student parties, the use of drugs among young people is exported to other times of daily life. This trivialization is a cause for concern.
This is because, as doctors specializing in child and adolescent psychiatry point out, the brain of “adolescents” continues to undergo significant development until the age of about 25 and, as a result, the use of cannabis, especially in this age group, confers a specific risk in terms of dependence (frequency and intensity), but also in terms of cerebral, cognitive and emotional impact.
This observation is also valid for other drugs. In this respect, prevention for this group is an absolute necessity, even if its impact is still limited.
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