Research reveals more than a quarter of Irish teenagers started drinking at 13 or younger
A study of tens of thousands of 15 and 16-year-olds across Europe last year found as many as 7% of Ireland’s young people admitted being drunk by the first year of their teens.
Boys were more likely to have drunk alcohol by that age.
The European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Drugs also recorded levels of drug use by teenagers, including 5% of 15 and 16-year-olds having used cannabis by the age of 13.
The study revealed 43% of the teenage group would have little problem sourcing the drug, while just over a fifth said the same about ecstasy.
On actual usage, 4% admitted using ecstasy, 3% cocaine, amphetamines, hallucinogens such as LSD or tranquillisers or sedatives.
In Ireland, 13% of teenagers had smoked cigarettes in the last 30 days – below the European average of 21%.
Three-quarters of Irish teenagers had had alcohol at some point by the time they reached 15 or 16 and just over a third said they had been drunk in the last month.
Drinking rates were higher among girls than boys.
The school survey project noted that the number of Irish teenagers who admitted smoking, drinking, gambling and taking drugs has fallen over the past 20 years.
The study also showed cannabis use was highest among teenagers in the Czech Republic, where drinking rates were also highest along with Greece and Hungary.
Ireland was among the countries with the highest rates of usage of new psychoactive drugs in 2015.
Some 16% of Irish teenagers also said they have gambled at least once in the last year, with just over one in 10 admitting their gambling was frequent.
Some 1,470 teenagers in Ireland were surveyed for the research project.
The European School Survey Project warned that the school/class participation rates in Ireland of 18% were exceptionally low.
It said that despite strict regulations on tobacco and alcohol, adolescents still report relatively easy access.