Youngsters Having Treatment For Drug Abuse Up By A Fifth

More than 9,000 were sent on courses to try to curb the drug abuse that led them into crime and anti-social behaviour.

Most were ordered to take drug treatment by the courts after convictions for crimes seen as linked to their drug habit.

The majority sent for treatment were found to be using cannabis. But an increasing proportion are taking other drugs, notably cocaine.

The figures, released by the Department of Health to MPs, show a 20 per cent rise in the number of children entering treatment for drug problems, up from 7,500 in 2005-2006 to 9,031 in 2006-2007.

The number who were said to have their main problem with cannabis was 5,037, 56 per cent of the total.

The previous year there were 4,567 who gave cannabis as their predominant drug, 61 per cent of the total.

Campaigners against drugs warned that the assumption among many adults that taking drugs is harmless has contributed to their growing use by children.

Mary Brett, of Europe Against Drugs, said: ”This is what happens when the common attitude to drugs is that taking them is normal.

”We are finding children acting as runners for dealers and committing crime themselves to pay for drugs. 

“Children are also unlikely to take notice of all the information about cannabis as a cause of psychosis that older teenagers are aware of.

A Department of Health spokesman said: ”These figures reflect the massive improvements that have been made over the past few years in engaging more people in effective drug treatment.

”We have seen a reduction in cannabis use across all age groups.

But the Magistrates Association reported recently that the Governments decision to downgrade the criminal status of cannabis in 2004 has produced a boom in youth crime, notably among 12 and 13-year-olds.