Alcohol and drug use is dropping


Dr Tina Lam.
Dr Tina Lam.

Statistics from the Australian School Students Alcohol and Drug survey of WA showed between 2005-14, the proportion of young people reporting having drunk alcohol in the past month had reduced from 43.5 per cent to 23.9 per cent and in the past week halved from 28.9 per cent to 13.9 per cent.

Curtin University National Drug Institute research fellow Tina Lam said there was no attributable reason for the trend, which appeared to be worldwide, other than possible parental awareness.

“Declines in Australian adolescent drinking over the past decade are consistent with trends observed in other countries such as the US, England, Sweden and Russia,” she said.

“There is limited data on the exact reasons why this trend is occurring (such as) parental awareness of the alcohol recommendations (which) may or may not translate to behaviours that indicate disapproval of alcohol use.”

Dr Lam said young people were equally forgoing drugs.

“A (drugs) survey seems to be telling the same story over the past decade and cannabis remains the most popular drug,” she said.

In 2002, 25 per cent of young people had used cannabis, while in 2011 15 per cent of young people reported using the drug.

Dr Lam said while there was more alcohol abstinence, young people who were drinking were doing so at levels considered risky.

“There are also indications that a significant number of young people who choose to drink are drinking at higher levels than before,” she said.

Dr Lam warned that young people’s brains could be affected by alcohol but the infancy of the research made conclusions about the damage difficult to draw.

“There is emerging evidence that drinking during adolescence is associated with subtle but significant neurological changes which go on to adversely affect a young person’s memory and capacity to learn,” she said.

“Overall it’s encouraging news that more young people are choosing not to drink and thus not experience alcohol-related harms, but we aren’t out of the woods yet as we are still seeing a substantial portion of young people experiencing alcohol-related harms.”