HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Cannabis 'Easily Available' To Children
Pubdate: Fri, 12 Aug 2005
Source: Eastern Daily Press (Norfolk, UK)
Copyright: 2005sArchant Regional
Bookmark: (Youth)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)


Teenagers and even younger children find it easy to get hold of drugs, 
alcohol and cigarettes, new research revealed today.

In the same week that Norfolk GPs warned of increasing numbers of young 
people suffering from mental health problems because of cannabis, a study 
in the British Medical Journal concludes that a third of 13-year-olds and 
two thirds of 15-year-olds find drugs easy to obtain.

The news comes despite Government targets and campaigns to tackle underage 
smoking, drinking and illegal substance use.

Chip Somers, project manager at the Suffolk-based Focus drugs counselling 
service, said it was worrying news.

He said: "This reflects the fact that there are a lot of drugs available 
throughout the UK and East Anglia.

"There was a time when you had to travel to the big cities to score drugs, 
but now in small market towns people have easy access to cocaine, heroin 
and even crack cocaine."

The research in the British Medical Journal, carried out by a team from NHS 
Health Scotland, found children get cigarettes, alcohol and drugs from 
friends or family or by buying them themselves.

When they looked at illegal drugs, the researchers found that around a 
third of 13-year-olds and two-thirds of 15-year-olds thought they were very 
or fairly easy to obtain - especially cannabis.

Between 10pc and 20pc of 10 to 12-year-olds said they had been offered 
illegal drugs, rising to two-thirds of 15-year-olds.

By the age of 15, at least 10pc claim to have been offered heroin, cocaine 
or crack cocaine.

Youngsters believe it is easy to get hold of illegal substances. 
"Two-thirds of 15-year-olds say they know where they can easily buy 
cannabis; a quarter say it can easily be bought at school," researchers said.

They said that demand for illicit drugs was affected by cost, but there was 
little evidence that enforcement measures targeting the drug supply chain 
have had any effect on street prices, let alone drug use.

Mr Somers added: "It is now such an extensive business that it is difficult 
to see what can be done about it, except by changing people's attitudes to 
buying drugs."

And they found that underage smokers said they could easily acquire 
cigarettes - despite them only being legally available to over-16s. Most 
often they received them from friends or family, but most regular smokers 
aged 12 to 15 said they could buy them from shops.

Alcohol was also seen as easy to obtain by youngsters, especially since the 
real price of drinks in the UK has halved since the 1960s.

"Young people's early drinking is often done at home with their parents," 
the researchers said.

"Later, they may drink with friends at parties or outdoors before 
gravitating towards pubs and clubs from age 14-15 onwards. Around 80pc of 
15-year-olds in the UK perceive alcoholic drinks to be very or fairly easy 
to obtain."

Xany Oliver, of the Norfolk Drug and Alcohol Action Team, said that alcohol 
and drugs were widely used among young people.

"Underage drinking is probably more of a problem. Many young people are 
experimenting with cannabis and other drugs, but generally alcohol is more 
likely to be associated with aggressiveness and related problems."

The researchers concluded: "Young people report little difficulty in 
obtaining cigarettes and alcoholic drinks from early secondary school age 
upwards through a range of social and illicit commercial sources. They also 
report widespread availability of illicit drugs, particularly cannabis . . . "

"There is also good evidence that restricting the sale of tobacco and 
alcohol by enforcing (or, in the case of alcohol, raising) the minimum 
purchase age can reduce sales.

"However, the evidence that this affects consumption or hazardous use is 
stronger for alcohol than for tobacco and depends on compliance by retailers."

The researchers also said that there was little evidence that voluntary 
arrangements with legitimate retailers, or intervening in illegal supply, 
have had any effect on young people's substance abuse.
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