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The Primary School Drug Abusers

Julia Houston, BBC News, Manchester, 23rd May 2006

Children as young as 10 are undergoing treatment for drug addictions in north-west England, according to a drug support group.

Addaction said young people are being referred for misusing alcohol and cannabis and that issues with harder drugs are not uncommon.

Government figures show more young people are using drugs in the region than in any other part of England.

The most popular substance among 16 to 24-year-olds is cannabis.

In 2004-5, 20% of youngsters admitted using the drug.

Nick Evans, from the Liverpool branch of Addaction, said children between 10 and 18 were being referred to them for counselling and treatment.

"The large majority of people we see are misusing alcohol or cannabis," he said.

"There are instances where people use ecstasy, cocaine, amphetamines, and on a few instances there are harder drugs.

"Sadly there are instances where people use drugs such as heroin and crack, but fortunately that remains the minority.

"I think there is a sense amongst young people that they don't want to use harder drugs like heroin."

He stressed the importance of young people choosing to clean up their lives themselves.

"We offer education and support, but it's the young person who is leading the change and they are committed to changing their lives," Mr Evans said.

"Our aim is to get young people to address their substance misuse so they feel they can lead normal, healthy lives."

Lancashire's Drugs Action Team (DAT) recently tripled the number of at-risk teenagers seen by its workers.

And the service suspects there are more people out there to be reached.

Mark Hindle, chairman of the Lancashire DAT, said: "It is a hard fact of modern life that young people will experiment with alcohol and drugs.

"It is up to us and our partners to find new ways to deal with that reality."

Liverpool City Council is set to spend £10m on drugs services in the coming year.

The city's drug and alcohol experts estimate there is a total of 6,170 problematic drug users in Liverpool, but they want to spell out that treatment really does work.

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