The normalization of recreational drug use amongst young people in north-west England

Br J Sociol. 1994 Jun;45(2):287-312.


An anonymous self-report survey of drug use among a cohort of 776 14-15 year olds in North-West England was conducted at the end of 1991, aiming to estimate prevalence and profile users. Six in 10 reported being offered drugs, and 36 per cent to using drugs (20 per cent in the past month). Over half of those offered drugs had tried them. Lifetime prevalence was highest for cannabis (32 per cent), with five other drugs each being used by 10-14 per cent. Three groups identified were cannabis smokers, solvents sniffers, and stimulant/psychedelic (or dance drug) users. The population parameters of drug use were estimated at 33-40 per cent, suggesting up to 200,000 local young adults have used drugs. Most significantly, the proportion of young women being offered and using drugs and the prevalence of drug trying amongst young people in 'middle-class' schools, suggests a substantial social transformation is underway in respect of recreational drug use. The results of this survey confirm a general trend apparent in other British studies. As this cohort is tracked into the mid 1990s, the sociological implications will be significant.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • England / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs*
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Social Class
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*


  • Illicit Drugs