Drinking on rise again among Scottish teenagers

By Reevel Alderson
BBC Scotland's social affairs correspondent

image captionMore teenagers had drunk alcohol in the week before the survey or admitted having been drunk

Drinking is on the increase again among adolescents in Scotland, according to an official study.

About 21,000 second-year and fourth-year pupils from 325 secondary schools took part in the survey last year.

The numbers of 13 and 15-year-olds who had tried alcohol had been steadily falling since 2004.

But the latest figures showed an increase in the proportion who said they had ever had alcohol, been drunk, or drank alcohol in the previous week.

The figures were contained in the Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (Salsus) for 2018.

It also said drug use among 13 and 15-year-olds decreased in the decade to 2013 but had been increasing since.

Smoking had remained pretty stable since 2015, the survey said, with just 2% of 13-year-olds and 7% of 15-year-old being regular smokers.


  • 36% of 13-year-olds and 71% of 15-year-olds had ever had an alcoholic drink
  • 53% of 13-year-olds and 70% of 15-year-olds, who had ever had alcohol, had been drunk at least once
  • 6% of 13-year-olds and 20% of 15-year-olds had drunk alcohol in the week before the survey
  • The most common location for drinking was at home
  • The number of pupils who had drunk alcohol in the week before the survey increased in all groups except 15-year-old girls


  • 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 has been gradually decreasing since 2002 but between 2013 and 2018 there was an increase
  • Cannabis was the most widely used drug, taken by 19% of 15-year-olds
  • It was most common for pupils to have used drugs out in the street or in someone else's home
  • 22% of 13-year-olds and 47% of 15-year-olds had been offered drugs
  • It was most common for pupils who had ever taken drugs to get them from friends


  • Almost all 13-year olds were non-smokers (97%), 2% were regular smokers and 2% were occasional smokers
  • Smoking was more common among 15-year-olds but prevalence was still low: 7% were regular smokers and 6% were occasional smokers
  • 87% of 13-year-olds and 70% of 15-year-olds reported never having smoked
  • 17% of 13-year-olds and 35% of 15-year-olds had ever used an e-cigarette. However, only a small proportion used them regularly: 2% of 13-year-olds and 3% of 15-year-olds

Campaigners said the figures on alcohol were disappointing and more needed to be done to protect young people from the effects of drinking in their teenage years.

The Scottish government said it was determined to "go further to protect children and young people from alcohol harm".

A spokeswoman said: "We've introduced measures to reduce underage drinking such as 'Challenge 25' and making it an offence to supply alcohol to someone under the age of 18 in a public place.

"We know that children and young people in Scotland find alcohol appealing and that alcohol advertising contributes to this and we plan to consult on a range of alcohol marketing restrictions in spring next year."

She said the smoking figures were "encouraging" and that the number taking drugs had been generally decreasing since 2002.

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