A DEPARTMENT OF Health-funded report has found that binge drinking and soft-drug use is rife among children and young adults in rural areas, reports The Times.

The report, carried out by drug prevention charity Mentor UK, was drawn from interviews with 40 young people aged 16 to 18 over an 18-month period.

The study encompassed children from all income groups in four areas – North Yorkshire, Cornwall, Suffolk, and Carmarthenshire in mid-Wales.

The report found that teenagers were being drawn into the drink-and-drugs culture – and that some parents were turning a blind eye.

The teenagers arranged regular weekend drinking sessions in friends‘ houses, where they consumed dangerous quantities of spirits, cider and alcopops and used cannabis and Ecstasy.

The teenagers told researchers that they drank because “it makes me feel better with myself” and “things are better when I‘m drunk”.

They took drugs because they felt it made them look cool and helped them to escape their problems.

Many of the youngsters were concerned about the health risks but said they needed drugs and alcohol in order to relive the stress of exams and help them relax.

The problem is gaining attention in Whitehall. A DEFRA official was on the report‘s steering committee and junior DEFRA minister Alun Michael has been briefed.

Action under discussion  includes creating more “extension schools” where pupils can go after the traditional school day to engage in sports and arts activities.

Laws are also being considered that would allow police to use decoy teenagers to trap retailers selling alcohol to under-18s, the paper claims.

Some parents are keen to let their children drink in friends‘ houses, feeling it is safer than letting them go elsewhere.

For this reason Mr Michael is keen to encourage parents to become closely involved with their community leaders to alter attitudes.

“The lack of anonymity in rural areas makes it very difficult for young people to get advice,” said Mr Michael.