Irish pub culture is known worldwide and has contributed to the stereotype that Irish people drink all of the time.

With this in mindit may come as a bit of a shock to some that Irish students drink alcohol less often than their European peers.

However they do consume more when they drink, according to a European survey published today.

The European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) showed 50 per cent of all Irish 15 and 16-year-olds surveyed had consumed alcohol in the previous 30 days, seven per cent below the European average.

Two out of every five Irish students had five or more drinks in one sitting over the same period, which was slightly above the European norm.

Average alcohol consumption on the last drinking day among the surveyed was 6.7cl of pure alcohol, compared to 5.1cl across the rest of Europe.

In Ireland, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to buy alcohol or to consume it unless they are in a private residence and have parental consent.

ESPAD is the largest cross-national research project on adolescent substance use in the world.

A total of 19 per cent of Irish students surveyed had tried illegal drugs, a drop from 37 per cent since 1995. Lifetime use of cannabis has also fallen by 19 per cent.

Use of drugs such as cannabis and inhalants among Irish students is now in line with European averages.

Irish students also smoke less during the past month than their European counterparts, with 23 per cent of girls and 19 per cent of boys admitting to having smoked, compared to a 28 per cent average among both sexes across Europe.

Overall, the percentage of cigarette smokers in this age group in Ireland has halved since 1995.

Beer was the most popular beverage among Irish boys, with 47 per cent drinking it, while 37 per cent of girls chose cider as their drink of choice.

A total of 37 per cent of the Irish students surveyed reported being intoxicated in the past 12 months, and 23 per cent were drunk in the past 30 days. This compared with an overall European average of 17 per cent.

The Irish survey was carried out by Dr Mark Morgan of the department of education