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The Guardian Newspaper (UK) in association with MixMag have conducted a survey into drug use among young people in the UK..
The mean age of UK respondents was 28. Nine out of 10 were white, three-quarters were in work and earning between £10,000 and £40,000. Some 55% were educated to degree level or above.
Dr Adam Winstock, a consultant addictions psychiatrist and director ofGlobal Drug Survey, said: "This is the largest assessment of current drug use ever conducted. What is overwhelmingly tells us is that people are not defined by their drug use, but that the harms that drugs can have are defined by the way people choose to use them.
"The challenge for government and policy makers will be how to regulate and craft a public health response which remains credible and respects individual choice."
The drugs most likely to be used by respondents were overwhelmingly alcohol and tobacco, with 92% of respondents saying they had drunk alcohol in the last month, 53% had taken cannabis, 34%, MDMA and 22% cocaine.
One in 10 respondents said they had been stopped and searched for drugs in the past 12 months. Of those found with cannabis, just under half were let off. Over a third of those caught with MDMA were let off.
Niamh Eastwood, chief executive of the drugs charity Release, said the findings suggested the police might be reluctant to criminalise this demographic group for carrying drugs.
"If you sent the same survey to different groups – young black males in inner city areas, say – it would tell a different story. The survey probably does represent the experience of middle class people who use drugs."
David Nutt, the former government drugs adviser sacked for suggesting LSD and ecstasy were less dangerous than alcohol, said he was not surprised by the survey findings about the extent of drinking and the concerns people had about it. "That's what I expected. People understand. The message is out there and people know alcohol is the biggest problem. It confirms what the evidence has been saying."