Study: more young people trying cannabis, but not alcohol or cigarettes

Up to 31% of grade 9 students say they never or hardly use any alcohol, and even fewer smoke - but experimenting with cannabis is seen as low risk,

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File picture of someone smoking a joint / Credit: iStock

Young people in Finland are drinking less alcohol and smoking fewer cigarettes, but they’re experimenting more regularly with cannabis.

That’s the findings of a new study released Tuesday by the National Institute for Health and Welfare THL.

Alcohol consumption falls, in line with patterns in other Nordic countries for young people.

Binge drinking has continued declining among boys, but this drop seems to have halted among girls. At the turn of the century, around half of the young people had drunk at least six portions of alcohol at once during the previous 30 days. In 2019, only 22% of young people did this. The differences in binge drinking between boys and girls are minor.

Up to 31% of grade 9 students say they never or hardly use any alcohol, and even fewer smoke – just 7% of ninth graders now report smoking daily, compared with 25% just 20 years ago.

Researchers also found a drop in snuff use, which soared among boys in recent years, although girls use snuff more frequently than before.

‘Low risk’ cannabis use growing in Finland among young people 

Researchers found that cannabis use is on the rise.

In 1995 just 5% of boys had tried cannabis, while now it has risen to 13%. The corresponding figures for girls were 5% in 1995 and 9% today.

“The frequently presented view that an increase in cannabis use could be caused by a reduction in alcohol consumption does not appear to hold true, at least among under-aged people” says THL Senior Researcher Kirsimarja Raitasalo.

An increasing number of young people also believe that only few or no risks are related to using cannabis, and more of them believe that it is easy to obtain cannabis according to the study.

“During the entire observation period, cannabis use has been more common among the young people who use alcohol, particularly those regularly engaged in binge drinking, compared to those abstaining from alcohol use. It appears that cannabis has not replaced alcohol, but has instead been adopted alongside it” she explains.

This research was carried out in Finland as part of the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD). The study has been conducted every fourth year since 1995 in 23 to 39 European countries.