Schools and youth workers have been warned by the Office for Standards in Education that drug-taking is one of the most "urgent and worrying problems" they face.
Two OFSTED reports to be published on Monday paint a picture of widespread drug abuse which has become an accepted way of life for some young people, in rural areas as well as in the inner cities.
Alcohol abuse is also revealed to be a problem in most parts of the country, with so-called "alcopops" (alcoholic drinks packaged like soft drinks) encouraging pupils to drink more alcohol.
The reports, Drug-Taking in Schools and The Contribution of Youth Services to Drug Education, called for better planning and co-ordination of schemes to tackle drug abuse. The schools' report praised many schools for teaching about the dangers of drugs but said warnings should be better co-ordinated across the curriculum.
The two reports, which were based on research in 930 schools and 40 youth organisations, follow the Health Education Authority's disclosure in a survey of pupils' attitudes to health that 43 per cent of 15-year-olds had taken drugs.
The report on youth services said cannabis was commonly used by a large proportion of young people and in some cases this was condoned by their parents.
An increase in use of crack cocaine - more fashionable than Ecstasy, according to some respondents, and associated with a violent subculture- was a major concern.
The report praised many youth services, particularly those which accepted that young people took drugs and worked on encouraging them to cut down or stop. Youth workers visiting schools often provided a good service but close links were not common and some schools still denied that drug-taking was a problem.
Well-funded projects often only had a short-term effect, said the reports, and needed to be part of a longer-term, wider strategy.
* Drug Education in Schools and The Contribution of Youth Services to Drug Education, Pounds 6.50 each from The Stationery Office, PO Box 276, London SW8 5DT.