MORE than two teenagers a day begin treatment for drug or alcohol addiction in Scotland, according to new figures.
A report released last week by the NHS shows more than 230 young people under 19 began receiving help in the three months to 30 June.
The Scottish Conservatives said the figures were likely to be “the tip of the iceberg”, because they only cover those who are getting help.
However, the figures also showed that the Scottish Government is continuing to meet its target of having more than 90 per cent of people seeking help seen within three weeks.
According to the report, 6,276 men and 2,930 women began treatment for drink or drug problems in the period from April to the end of June.
Those under the age of 19 accounted for around 230 of those cases, made up of around 144 males and 88 females.
However, the actual figures are likely to be higher still as information was only available for non-anonymous clients, with anonymous users making up around 19 per cent of those treated.
Scottish Conservative justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell said: “These are very worrying figures which show just how big a problem addiction to drugs and alcohol is in Scotland.
“There are all kinds of implications for young people who go down this dangerous route.
“It can lead to cycles of offending to fund the habit which are incredibly hard to break, and health problems which should only ever present themselves in people who are much older.
“These figures only cover those who are getting help, and are very much the tip of the iceberg. It’s crucial they are treated in a successful, thorough way to help them turn their lives around.”
The NHS figures also show that 96 per cent of people (all age groups) who started alcohol treatment waited three weeks or less.
The figures for drug treatment were 95 per cent for men and 93 per cent for women.
The age group with the highest percentage of people starting treatment for drug or alcohol misuse was those age forty or more, accounting for 55.2 per cent of males and 55.4 per cent of females in that age.
Figures released last month showed more than 600 people died of drug-related deaths in Scotland last year – the highest figure ever recorded.
Men accounted for almost three-quarters of the deaths, while heroin was implicated in more than half of cases. The largest increase in numbers was for 35 to 44-year-olds, the next largest was for people aged 45 to 54. However, there was a fall in the number of drug-related deaths of people aged under 25.
While there has been growing concern over the use of so-called legal highs among young people, referrals to drug treatment services for these substances are said to represent a tiny fraction of the overall numbers, with heroin remaining the most commonly abused drug.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “While news that any person, regardless of age, is in need of treatment for a drug addiction is of course a cause for concern, it is positive that individuals feel able to come forward to receive that treatment. It is also important to recognise that fewer Scots are taking drugs are in the first place – the number of adults reporting drug use fell by 1.4 per cent between 2008 and 2013 and is continuing to fall. Drug-taking among young people is at its lowest level in a decade.
“Our drugs campaign, Know the Score, offers reliable and non-judgmental advice on drugs and their risks, via our free helpline and website.”
She added: “Drug treatment data does show that the ambitious targets for drug and alcohol treatment waiting times are being exceeded and that people in need, of all ages, are able to quickly access the treatment they need to support their recovery.”