"Drug use among 15- to 16-year-olds (Europewide) incre-ased by more than 40 percent over the 1995 to 1999 period ... mainly a result of the doubling of drug use rates in East Europe," the UN office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention said in the report released June 26.
The number of teenagers using drugs other than cannabis in Eastern Europe more than tripled during the same period, the United Nations reported.
"Heroin use, both in terms of smoking and injecting, is already more common in East than in West Europe. Smoking heroin is more than twice as common in East Europe than in West Europe," the report said.
In Croatia, Latvia, Lithua-nia, Rumania and Russia heroin is the most popular drug among 15- to 16-year-olds. The highest rate of injecting heroin among that age group was reported from the Russian Federation, it said.
Many Eastern European countries are on trafficking routes bringing opiates grown in Afghanistan via Central Asia to Western Europe.
Teenagers in Eastern Euro-pean countries with comparatively high standards of living, such as Slovenia and the Czech Republic, took the most drugs, according to the report.
Thirty-five percent of Czech teens took drugs, the second largest percentage in Europe along with France. That rate was only topped by Britain which, at 36 percent, had the largest percentage of teenage drugusers.
The number of 15- to 16-year-olds taking illegal drugs also doubled in Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia from 1995 to 1999 and climbed from 3 percent to 15 percent in Lithuania.
Across Europe amphetamine-type stimulants were "the drugs of choice among 15- to 16-year-olds," with a notable preference among Polish and Czech youngsters, the report said.
It said cocaine was far more common in Western than Eastern Europe.
While the number of European youngsters taking drugs is rising sharply, it has not yet reached the levels of their counterparts in the United States.
Eighteen percent of young Europeans take drugs, compared with 45 percent of U.S. teenagers, among whom drug use has declined slightly since 1997, the report said.