May 1, 2014
Children as young as four are among hundreds of youngsters being referred to specialist drug and alcohol treatment services in the UK.
Charities have called for improved drugs education in schools as an investigation by the Press Association revealed primary school children are being flagged as at risk of becoming addicts.
Treatment experts said the most common reason for children to come into contact with drugs and alcohol is through their parents and preventative work is key to heading off misuse among youngsters.
But, shockingly, in some cases they might even have started abusing substances themselves.
Some 366 children aged 12 or under were referred for treatment in 2012/13 in England, according to the most recent figures from Public Health England.
More than half of under-13s – 59 per cent – received treatment for cannabis misuse, while a third were treated for alcohol misuse. A small number abused solvents.
The news was revealed by Freedom of Information requests by the Press Association. In Scotland, referrals were made for children aged four.
Children aged eight were sent for specialist help in Waltham Forest, east London, while nine-year-olds had been referred in Herefordshire, Liverpool, Oxfordshire, Rutland and West Berkshire.
Authorities in Bury, Calderdale, Halton, Hull and Rochdale had seen 10-year-olds referred.
Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said: ‘I am deeply concerned that children so young are clearly gaining access to harmful substances.
‘It is right that these youngsters receive the appropriate help but we must look at the source of their problems.
‘It is vital that parents take responsibility and additional support is given to them in order to prevent children being exposed to drugs and alcohol in the first place.’