Children as young as eight have a considerable knowledge of drugs and a third of secondary pupils believe cannabis should be legalised, according to research carried out by the Roehampton Institute, London.
Projects undertaken by the Addictive Behaviour Centre (ABC) and the Children's Literature Research Centre (CLRC) discovered that many eight and nine-year-olds were able to draw and label drugs, such as alcohol, cigarettes, cocaine, heroin, LSD and cannabis, in considerable detail.
The majority of secondary pupils thought that by the age of 25 the majority of young people will have used an illegal drug, but more than half (52 per cent) said they do not think cannabis should be legalised.
The projects, sponsored by Merton, Sutton and Wandsworth health authorities, involved 658 children at four primary schools who took part in a "draw and write" exercise to determine their knowledge of drugs. Teachers at the school expressed surprise at detail and accuracy of the drawings and the descriptions which suggest a small minority has witnessed drug-taking.
Older children in the three boroughs completed confidential questionnaires, and 45 per cent said young people should be taught about the effects of drugs and 40 per cent said children should be taught how to say no to them. An overwhelming majority of girls cited magazines as their main source of information about drugs, alcohol and solvent abuse.