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Arch Hellen Med, 33(2), March-April 2016, 249-257


Smoking, alcohol, and drug use among adolescents in Greece – 2015 update and secular trends 1984–2015

Α. Kokkevi,1 A. Fotiou,1 E. Kanavou,1 M. Stavrou,1 C. Richardson2
1University Mental Health Research Institute (UMHRI), Athens
2Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Athens, Greece

OBJECTIVE This study depicts the current situation (2015) and 30-year trends (1984–2015) in smoking, alcohol, and drug use among 16 year-old high school pupils in Greece.

METHOD The data are derived from the "Greek Nationwide School Population Survey on Substance Use and other Addictive Behaviours", a cross-sectional survey conducted quadrennially on representative samples of high-school pupils. Logistic regression analysis was used to assess recent and long-term trends (linear and quadratic) over the 30-year period 1984–2015.

RESULTS In 2015, 39.2% of 16 year-old high school pupils nationwide had smoked conventional cigarettes at least once in their lifetime. About 11.1% and 2.9% were regular and heavy smokers, respectively, with a higher proportion among males than females. In addition, 19.1% reported experimentation with e-cigarettes, mostly males and smokers of conventional cigarettes. About 66.2% had consumed alcohol in the past month, 7.6% 10 times or more, nearly twice as many boys as girls. Heavy episodic drinking in the past month was reported by 38.3% of the sample, in a higher proportion by males, and 27.6% reported drunkenness in the past 12 months. About 10.6% had tried an illicit drug, half (5.8%) at least 3 times. A higher proportion of males than females reported use of "any illicit drug". Cannabis was the most commonly used drug (9.1%), with almost half of "ever" cannabis users (4.1%) reporting use within the past month, and 2.5% reported use of "new psychoactive substances" (including synthetic cannabinoids). The lifetime prevalence of use of any of the other illicit drugs did not exceed 2.0%. Short-term trends suggest a decrease in smoking and in current and frequent alcohol consumption in 2015 compared with 2011 or 2007. A decrease was also observed in heavy episodic drinking, but only between 2011 and 2015 and only in males. No significant change was observed in lifetime use of "any illicit drug" or cannabis in the period 2007–2015. The 30-year trends (1984–2015) suggest a decrease in lifetime and current smoking, similar between genders, and a decrease in heavy smoking after 1999 in females and 2003 in males, and in regular smoking after 1999 in males. A linear decrease was also observed in alcohol use, with decreases in frequent alcohol use and heavy episodic drinking observed after 2011. Following linear increases between 1984 and 1999, the rates of illicit drug use levelled off from 2003 onwards.

CONCLUSIONS Despite recent decreases in substance use among 16 year-olds in Greece, interventions need to be sustained and focus more towards preventing heavy episodic drinking and the use of novel substances, such as e-cigarettes and "new psychoactive drugs".

Key words: Αdolescents, Αlcohol, Greece, Ιllicit drugs, Smoking.

© Archives of Hellenic Medicine