The results of a study by the University of Seville show that most young people do not fit the risk profile of taking substances. 60% of Spaniards aged 13 to 18 say they do not take drugs and rarely drink alcohol – only in moderation – and less than 10% admit to have taken some form of illegal drug.
The research by Pilar Ramos, teacher and researcher at University of Seville forms part of the 2006 edition of the study Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC), and presents data for drug use from a sample of 15,942 Spanish adolescents, 46.7% of which were male, aged 13 to 18, from 375 different educational institutions.
The researchers conducted a questionnaire about substance use, bio psychosocial adjustments and the contexts of development. They were asked about the frequency of tobacco, alcohol and cannabis use, intoxication and consumption of other illegal drugs, such as designer ones (ecstasy or ‘pills’, LSD, acid) amphetamines or speed, opiates (heroine, methadone) medication to ‘get high’, cocaine, glue and others.
The project shows that after alcohol and tobacco, the substance most popular amongst adolescents is cannabis. In fact, Spain, joint with Wales, is the country with the third highest rate of cannabis use by young people, after Canada and Switzerland.
Pilar Ramos stated that “Although it is important that society, the media, the experts involved and young people themselves change the stereotype of adolescents taking drugs, the data from our study should not be seen as an excuse not to prevent substance use”.
The study also investigated drug use in friendship groups. Findings suggest that teenagers who take drugs are less satisfied at school and with their families, but they are most satisfied in the friendship environment. In this respect, this project also verifies the direct relationship between the level of substance use by young people and their friends, therefore analysing their friendship groups is important when studying youth substance use.
A study carried out within the same research project has compared the influence of the social environment in tobacco consumption amongst Spanish and English adolescents. The conclusions show that the fact that their best friend smokes is considerably more relevant than any other person in the adolescent’s development, such as parents or siblings.
There were no significant differences between provinces, although adolescents from the Balearic Islands are more likely to have consumed alcohol more frequently, followed by those from Aragón and Catalonia.
According to the Ramos and colleagues, the measures to reduce drug use could be grouped into three areas of intervention: putting in place better and further reaching measures to regulate and control access to these substances (especially alcohol) for the younger population, extending prevention programmes and promoting responsible consumption; and finally, improve the coherence and continuity in different environments where young people grow and develop. They conclude that “in other words, there should be good relationships in different contexts of development: family, school and friends.”
Source: Can we still be friends if I don’t smoke: an asset based analysis of adolescent smoking behaviour in England and Spain. Morgan, A., Rivera, F., Jiménez-Iglesias, A., Owen, L., Moreno, C. & Haglund, B. (en revisión). Journal of Health Psychology.