Child Drug And Substance Abuse On The Rise

One in five secondary school children experimented in drug taking in the UK last year according to a health and social care survey.

However, the Government has pledged to take steps to cut the number of young people taking drugs as total of £65 million has been made available to tackle substance misuse by youngsters, with the money being ploughed into services to educate young people on the dangers of drugs and clarify misconceptions around the law.

A schools survey published yesterday showed cocaine use among 11 to 15-year-olds had increased from 1.4% in 2004 to 1.9% in 2005.

The study questioned 9,000 children aged 11 to 15 from 305 schools during the autumn term of 2005, and it found that 20% of secondary school children had tried drugs in the past year.

A quarter of the pupils questioned by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) said they had been offered cannabis and 12% said they had tried it, whilst 4% of pupils said they had taken Class A drugs, including cocaine, during the year.

The survey, which is carried out every year to provide information on the proportion of children who smoke, drink and take drugs, showed that the prevalence of drug taking increases with age.

Six per cent of 11-year-olds said they had taken drugs in the last year compared with a third of 15-year-olds.

In total 6% of pupils used drugs at least once a month while 1% of pupils reported that they took drugs on most days. {mospagebreak}

A Government spokesman said:
“Drugs can have a devastating impact on young people’s lives, health and education.

“We are taking action across Government to reduce access to drugs, educate young people of the risks and clarify the misconceptions around the law.

“£65 million has been made available to local areas in 2005/06 for young people’s substance misuse services.

“All schools receive guidance on drugs, including volatile substances and alcohol, to help them make decisions about the right approaches for them.

“Schools are already doing excellent work in this area and Ofsted tells us that the quality and quantity of this education has never been better.

“The Government also funds the Frank campaign which offers young people a confidential drugs advice service – helping them to get the information and help they need.

“Reducing young people’s drug use, particularly the most vulnerable, is central to the Government’s Updated Drug Strategy and a key element of the Every Child Matters programme.

“Drug Action Teams and Children’s Services are working closely in all local areas to develop a comprehensive range of service provision for young people.

“Good progress is being made in many local areas but there remains work to do to ensure that we prevent drug misuse and the harm it causes to young people.”

Professor Denise Lievesley, chief executive of the HSCIC, said the figures showed that despite Government efforts to cut drug misuse among young people the prevalence of drug use among 11 to 15-year-olds had remained broadly stable for the past five years.

“The survey illustrates that the levels of use of drugs, drink and cigarettes by children aged 11-15 have remained constant for the past five years despite increased attention to these behaviours.”