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German teens turning away from drugs, alcohol

April 6, 2016

A comprehensive health study in Germany has found that drug and alcohol abuse by young people is at an all-time low. Officials warn, however, that binge drinking remains a rampant problem.

Jugendliche Alkohol
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Büttner

A new report released on Wednesday offered some positive news for Germany: Youth consumption of alcohol, drugs and cigarettes is lower than it has been in years. The study, carried out by the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA), showed that the past decade has seen a radical reduction in substance abuse by Germans ages 12 to 25.

Indeed, the levels of alcohol and drug consumption are the lowest they have been since the BZgA began carrying out these studies in the 1970s. When presenting the report, however, the government's top drug abuse commissioner Marlene Mortler warned of the continuing danger of binge drinking by young people.

In 2015, 10 percent of Germans aged 12 to 17 and 33.6 percent of those aged 18 to 25 admitted to drinking regularly, down from 18.6 percent and 40.5 percent in 2005.

Numbers for cigarette smoking have been reduced by similar margins, something Mortler chalked up to the spread of smoking bans in public spaces around Germany.

Binge drinking still common

Heidrun Thaiss highlighted binge-drinking numbers, a phenomenon that has far-reaching consequences for young people who shy away from hard drugs.

Thaiss said 15.9 percent of male teenagers and 12.5 percent of female teenagers admitted to drinking until they blacked out at least once a month in 2015.

Hard drug use was down, but still too high for Thaiss' liking. About 4 percent of young people admitted to using amphetamines and ecstasy, while 0.6 percent said they had used crystal meth. Even the numbers for consumption of cannabis were down.

Opposition: Cannabis ban promotes organized crime

The opposition Left party criticized the consequences of criminalizing marijuana, which effectively places it in the same category as heroin and crystal meth. "The federal government has ceded control of the cannabis market to organized crime and continues to hold on to its failed policy" of prosecuting use of marijuana, the party said in a statement.

"Cannabis as medicine yes, for fun no," responded Mortler, a member of the conservative Bavarian party the Christian Socialists (CSU).

es/bk (dpa, epd)