A quarter of eleven to 15-year-olds have tried drugs at some point in their lifetime, new figures show.
A 2007 NHS survey of 7,831 pupils in schools across England revealed that 25 per cent had used drugs, though the figure had fallen from 29 per cent in 2001.
The drug pupils were most likely to have used was cannabis, with 9 per cent of pupils reporting that they had taken cannabis within the last year. This compared with 13 per cent in 2001.
One in five pupils said they had drunk alcohol in the last week; their average consumption was 12.7 units, the equivalent of six pints of beer or one and a half bottles of wine.
Overall, 88 per cent of pupils will have drunk alcohol, tried drugs or smoked by the time they are 15.
In another recent report the World Health Organisation ranked teenagers from England, Scotland and Wales among the worst in Europe and North America in terms of underage sex, alcohol consumption and cannabis use.
Although the Government has highlighted slight reductions in drug and alcohol use by young people, observers have expressed concern that the figures remain so high.
The Department of Health said: “In the five years since the NHS Information Centre was opened, £30 million has been spent to provide friendly, confidential advice to young people about illegal drugs through FRANK.
“We will continue our work through FRANK, the alcohol strategy and our smoking campaigns to push the numbers down further.”
However, commenting on the NHS figures, Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrats’ health spokesman, said: “While the fall in children experimenting with drugs is welcome, the percentage of children trying drugs is still shockingly high.”