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Child drug overdoses jump 14 per cent in four years

Friday, July 17th, 2009 Child drug overdoses jump 14 per cent in four years

The number of children being admitted to hospital with drug poisoning has risen 14 per cent in four years, statistics from the Department of Health show.

The figures - obtained by Children and Young People Now - reveal that across 10 categories of drugs, including heroin, cocaine and cannabis, there were 827 poisoning cases in 2007/08 compared with 724 in 03/04.

The statistics go some way to reveal trends in substance misuse among young people in the UK and show an alarming increase in cases of youths overdosing on cocaine.

The number of children aged 17 or under who were treated in hospital for cocaine poisoning has increased 140 per cent between 2003/04 and last year from 25 cases to 60.

Over the same period the number of codeine and morphine-based painkiller drug overdoses have risen 49 per cent and methadone overdoses have gone up by 47 per cent.

In contrast, the number of children treated in hospital after overdosing on cannabis has fallen by 64 per cent from 148 cases to 54. There has also been a 53 per cent fall in heroin poisoning and a fall of 49 per cent in poisoning cases as a result of hallucinogens.

Martin Barnes, chief executive of DrugScope, has called for professionals working with children to get additional training to spot potential signs of abuse at an earlier age.

He said teachers, social workers and other professionals in contact with children often acquire “on-the-job” experience but believes more can be done to achieve earlier interventions.

“Clearly, the use of drugs itself can cause harm but without early identification a lot of the problems a young person is having can be compounded,” said Barnes.

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