Specialist drug and alcohol treatment for the young should be priority for the Scottish Government, a report has stated

Expert care for young people caught up in drug and alcohol abuse should be a priority for the Scottish Government, a new report has said.

The study said there were “worrying signs of increasing alcohol and drug-related harms among those of younger ages”.

It noted that the lack of specific treatment facilities for the younger age group had been highlighted as an issue in a 2009 report by Audit Scotland – adding that the issue was “more pressing today”.

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The report, published on the Scottish Government website, therefore recommended that ministers “develop residential and community treatment and recovery services tailored towards the different drug-profile and developmental needs of younger groups”.

Power to kill: Etizolam 'street valium' tablets.
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It added: “This should be prioritised as a lack of suitability of existing services has been identified as a barrier to uptake of services among younger people.

“Development of such services should include the development of both residential rehabilitation and community treatment and recovery services which cater for the specific needs of younger people.”

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More than 70% of those entering structured community or residential services for problem drug use in 2015-16 started using drugs before the age of 25, the report noted, adding that three-quarters (75%) of those who died from drug-related causes that year had been using drugs for a decade or more.

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With Scotland in “the midst of a drugs death crisis” after a record 1,339 fatalities in 2020, it stressed the importance of helping people at a younger age.

Many accidental overdose victims are poly-drug users, consuming multiple substances, including Class-A narcotics such as heroin and cocaine along with ‘street valium’ -etizolam – which is up to ten times stronger than other powerful benzodiazepines.

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Others start drinking from a young age and are hooked on cheap alcoholic drinks by their mid-teens by which time they have inflicted irreversible damage to their livers and other organs, shortening their life-expectancy.

The report said that tackling problematic alcohol and drug use among younger people was “vital to prevent the emergence of another cohort of individuals vulnerable to these avoidable harms as they grow older”.

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However, work by the Scottish Government revealed there were “no residential services tailored towards the specific needs of children and younger people in Scotland”.

The report also recommended work be done to encourage younger Scots to seek help if they need it.

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“With younger people less likely than older age-groups to engage with drug and alcohol treatment, services, work should be undertaken to increase engagement with services.”

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It comes as the report noted that for those aged between 15 and 24, alcohol-related hospital stay rates are increasing again.

While there had been a “sustained decline” in these between 2007-08 and 2016-17, it said the following three years had seen increases.

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As a result by 2019-20, the hospital stay-rate was 351.7 per 100,000, with the report stating: “While far lower than in 2007-08, this is a 15.4% increase on the rates in 2016-17.”

Meanwhile, 78 of the drugs deaths recorded last year were amongst those aged by 15 and 24 – with this more than double the total from 2017.

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