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Shock at cannabis treatment for children

PUBLISHED: 09:45 26 May 2009 | UPDATED: 09:46 06 July 2010

MORE than 50 Suffolk children under the age of 16 were treated for some form of cannabis addiction last year, shocking new figures have revealed.

Community leaders and health workers last night said they were "truly horrified" by the Government statistics.

MORE than 50 Suffolk children under the age of 16 were treated for some form of cannabis addiction last year, shocking new figures have revealed.

Community leaders and health workers last night said they were “truly horrified” by the Government statistics.

In light of the situation, drug experts warned that health issues relating to cannabis use could impact on family relationships, education and lead to a life of crime.

Chip Somers, chief executive of drug counselling charity Focus 12, admitted he was not particularly surprised by the figures and blamed the fact that the Class B drug was so “readily available”.

He said: “There is evidence that the use of cannabis for some people can lead to mental health problems and a life of crime.

“We would like to see a much more honest and vigorous education about drugs in schools where there tends to be denial, inaction or just a statement that all drugs are bad and you have to stay away from them.

“While if anyone at that age approached us, we would have to get parental permission to speak to them which often makes them reluctant to come forward.

“I think more people would come to us for advice, support and information if they weren't faced with a great, big legal process.”

The new figures, released by health minister Dawn Primarolo, show that 52 children in Suffolk - and a total of 380 across the East of England - were treated for problems linked solely with cannabis use in 2007-8.

A further 21 - out of 116 across the region - received help for cannabis problems as well as other drug issues.

West Suffolk MP Richard Spring, who uncovered the figures after raising a question in Parliament, said: “I am truly horrified by the number of children under 16 who have been treated for cannabis use.

“Cannabis usage is a critical health issue which is not remotely being highlighted sufficiently, with appalling consequences particularly for our young people, and the problem of youth crime.”

Simon Aalders, co-ordinator for the Suffolk Drug and Alcohol Action Team said parents had a key role in helping to education children about the dangers of drugs.

He said: “It is never good news when you read figures of a child a week having problems linked with cannabis. It can have a significant impact on a young person's development and the problem is a real challenge for the services.

“We aim to educate youngsters by not holding back the truth but also not glamorising it or minimising the risks. There is help available and we believe family involvement can be a strong catalyst for positive change.”

But a spokesman for the Department of Health claimed that evidence suggested the use of cannabis among young people was declining.

He said: “While fewer people are using drugs, they are now much more likely to get treatment for their problem. Thanks to record investment, specialist substance misuse services have expanded greatly.”

Anyone who would like to speak to a member of SAAT can contact 01473 299640.

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