Under-10s in Scots hospitals for illegal drug use

Soaring numbers of children are being hospitalised in Scotland as a result of drug-taking. Picture: Toby Williams
Soaring numbers of children are being hospitalised in Scotland as a result of drug-taking. Picture: Toby Williams
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A SOARING number of children are being hospitalised in Scotland as a result of drug-taking, official figures have revealed. Some youngsters under the age of ten have been treated by doctors in Scottish wards in the past year.

The increase is causing “real damage” to Scotland’s younger generation say 
opposition parties, who are demanding government action to address the rise.

Cannabis is the most common type of drug offered to teenagers, followed by stimulants such as cocaine and speed, then psychedelics including LSD and magic mushrooms.

It has now emerged that the number of times youngsters were admitted to hospital after taking illegal substances has increased by more than a third in two years, according to statistics obtained by the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

There were 119 incidents where youngsters aged between ten and 18 required hospital attention after taking drugs in 2013.

The figures, uncovered using freedom of information legislation, revealed an increase of 35 per cent on 2011, when the total across Scotland was 88.

Awareness of the dangers of drug-taking also appears to be falling among teenagers, a recent report found.

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Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume said the latest increase was a “clarion call” for action, saying youngsters needed to be educated about the risks of taking drugs.

The problem was worst in the NHS Lanarkshire area, where the data found 38 occasions on which children aged between ten and 18 were taken to hospital after taking drugs last year – up from 18 in 2011.

In the NHS Fife area, the total for such cases in 2013 was 25, up from nine two years earlier, while in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, it rose from 14 to 23 over the same period. Both Lanarkshire and Lothian recorded cases in which youngsters under ten were admitted in the past year.

Mr Hume said: “The increase in hospital admissions among young people for illegal drug-related illnesses may reflect that more people recognise that drug addiction is a health problem, not a criminal issue.

“But any increase in hospital admissions relating to illegal drug misuse cannot go unchallenged.

“This steady increase must serve as a clarion call to educate young people on the risks of illegal drugs.”

He added: “Gone are the days when those suffering from drug addiction were kept hidden from public view.

“In fact, the only way we can flush out the criminal groups and Mr Bigs reaping profits from addicts is to shine a light on illicit drug use.”

The figures don’t even paint the full picture across Scotland, because three boards – Ayrshire and Arran, Dumfries and Galloway, and Forth Valley – did not provide their figures.

“You only have to look at how young some of these people are when they are admitted,” Mr Hume added. “It shows the 
importance of frank, honest 
information and education.

“We have to be realistic and pragmatic and should know that education that sounds like a scare story alone doesn’t necessarily deter young people.

“But we still can’t be squeamish about telling young people about the risks. If we hold back until they are older, then we may have missed our chance.

“The focus for young people has to be health focused. Real damage can be done to them. They need to know this isn’t just adults making up rules.”

The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey 2012-13 showed 6.2 per cent of adults admitted using any drug in the last year, down from 6.6 per cent in 2010-11.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said drug use among young people and the population at large is falling, ­according to official figures. She added: “Between 2008-9 and 2012-13 there has been a decrease in reported drug use amongst both groups.

“We have made a record investment of over £224 million in frontline drug treatment and support services, with £30.4m of this in 2014-15 alone, ensuring that young people in Scotland have credible and accessible advice on drugs to help them make the right health choices.”

A report last month suggested that the number of young Scots smoking, drinking and using drugs is at its lowest level ever recorded.

But awareness of the dangers of drug use appears to be falling, according to the Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle And Substance Use Survey 2013.

The proportion of teenagers agreeing with the statement that “taking cannabis is dangerous” has fallen between 2010 and 2013, especially among users, the report found. There is also a “lack of knowledge” about the consequences of drug use among young people.

It also found that, among 15-year-olds, 9 per cent had recently used drugs, down from 11 per cent in 2010.

More than eight in ten (82 per cent) of 15-year-olds and 96 per cent of 13-year-olds reported they had never used drugs – the highest figure since the survey began in 1998.

Cannabis was by far the most commonly used drug (9 per cent of 15-year-olds and 1 per cent of 13-year-olds). The most commonly reported effects of taking drugs in the past year were vomiting (18 per cent), having an argument (16 per cent) and doing something that was later regretted (15 per cent).

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