Successive confinements, curfews, classes in half-groups … The pandemic, with its procession of health restrictions, has reduced the social life of adolescents in France and caused a “significant drop” in the consumption of alcohol, tobacco and cannabis among eighth graders, according to a study released Wednesday. “There were fewer parties, fewer opportunities to socialize, which undoubtedly delayed the experiments”, explains Julien Morel d’Arleux, director of the French Observatory for Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT) who reveals a survey carried out among 2,000 third year students during the first quarter of 2021.
The Covid-19 epidemic has thus “accentuated the downward trends that have been observed for the past ten years” among the youngest, he adds. An “encouraging” development, while France remains among the top consumers of psychoactive substances in Europe.
Daily smoking divided by four
According to the study carried out by an anonymous questionnaire, the number of third year students who have never drunk alcohol has doubled between 2010 and 2021, from 16.8% to 35.9%. The consumption of an alcoholic drink during the last month, declared by 31.8% of students, also reached its lowest level since 2010. Alcohol remains the most popular psychoactive substance among these college students with 64.1% of experimenters in 2021, compared to 75.3% three years earlier.
More and more outdated, tobacco is also much less attractive: 29.1% of adolescents in the third year say they have already smoked a cigarette, against 37.5% in 2018 and 51.8% in 2010. Daily smoking among young people in this age has been reduced by four over the past eleven years. “There is still an effort to be made on sales in tobacconists and stores,” said its director. “In France, there is no culture of checking the identity document of young people, unlike in Anglo-Saxon countries. “
“A protective effect on young people”
The study is also concerned about the growing use of electronic cigarettes among the youngest, now more popular than traditional cigarettes: 34.2% of third year students have already experienced it. The use of cannabis is also in “sharp decline”, even if its experimentation “remains early”, according to the OFDT. Less than one in ten students (9.1%) have experienced it, compared to 16.1% in 2018 and 23.9% in 2010.
Accentuated by the pandemic, the decline in the age of experimentation with these substances “has a protective effect on young people”, continues Julien Morel d’Arleux, because research has shown that the more the consumption of psychoactive substances starts late in the day. life, the lower the risk of falling into addiction. The OFDT warns, however, about the “high accessibility” of these products: 19.5% of third-year students believe that getting supplies of cannabis is quite or very easy, a proportion which climbs to 31.5% for tobacco. As for alcohol, one in six students has already experienced an episode of intoxication.