'10-year-olds know how to roll a joint and where to score': The Drugs Explosion: Part II

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The Independent Online
DRUG abuse is becoming an every day experience for millions of Britain's children thanks to dealing in playgrounds.

That is the conclusion of drug experts and is supported by inquiries by the Independent, which discovered evidence of a new narcotics craze among children as young as 10 who are buying sleeping tablets for as little as 50p each. There is also evidence of widespread dealing and use of illegal substances in schools. In one London comprehensive in a middle-class area a gang of 14 and 15-year-olds sell cannabis in the playground.

An unpublished study funded by the Department of Health, which looked at schools in northern England, reveals drug abuse by children aged from 13 to 18 is commonplace.

The largest national survey of drug use among 15 and 16-year-olds found the number of users has, over the past three years, doubled nationally to about one in five. A North-west of England study discovered that about half had taken drugs by the time they were 16.

Steve Barrigan, of the Walker YMCA Detached Youth Project in Newcastle upon Tyne, said: 'Five years ago the age of most of the people who had drug problems was 16 to 18; now 12 and 13 year-olds are involved. There are 10-year-olds who know how to roll a cannabis joint and where to score.'

A new narcotics trend has emerged in the North-east and in Scotland with youngsters using Temazepam, a popular sleeping pill, which has been used for years by drug addicts. Some youths are heating the substance, which comes in a gel or a tablet, and injecting the liquid. Gangrene can result because the injected substance can resolidify and cause blood clotting. Mixing it with alcohol can also be fatal. Most people take it orally.

Known as 'Wobbly Eggs' because one of the effects is to make the user stagger, the drug can become more addictive than heroin. An agency in Edinburgh has reported 11 and 12-year-olds taking it.

A thriving black market has emerged for the prescribed drug, which is being obtained by breaking into chemists, forging or stealing prescriptions, and by trading with legitimate users.

The Home Office is considering whether to reclassify the drug and make it illegal.

Drugs in schools, page 8

Middle-class habits, page 9

Leading article, letters, page 19