Drugs culture lures more and more victims

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Drug-taking among young people in Britain is still only in its "expansionary phase" and is likely to become more common in the future, according to a substance abuse charity which released a survey yesterday.

Turning Point, a drink, drugs and mental health charity, found in a survey of substance abusers using its services that over two-thirds of its clients are under 30 years old. The data, collected over one year from a cross- section of its 27,000 clients, also revealed that 37 per cent of drug- takers were between 18 and 24 and a tenth were under 18.

A spokesman for Turning Point said that drug-taking has become the norm for many young people. "They regard these things as fun and they do not see anything wrong with it and they know nothing of the health hazards involved."

Steroid use is one of the main growth areas of drug taking among the young. These drugs, which in the past were used mainly by body builders to gain weight and strength, are increasingly used for the same purposes by clubbers but they can cause heart, lung and liver problems. Many steroid- users are unaware of the health problems associated with their use.

Cannabis is also common among the young, with many starting to smoke or eat the drug in their early teens. LSD and ecstasy are also common. Turning Point says the use of these drugs can be summed up as "more and earlier" and gives "grave cause for concern".

Of those questioned in the survey, 32 per cent cited heroin abuse as the main reason for seeking help from the charity, but the figure was 40 per cent for younger people. Nearly 16 per cent took amphetamines, 11 per cent smoked cannabis and nearly 6 per cent took steroids.

Earlier in the year, the Institute for the Study of Drug Dependency found that three-quarters of schoolchildren had been offered drugs and nearly 40 per cent had experimented before they were 20.

Turning Point says: "For about one-third of people taking drugs is just a phase, for another third it's just dabbling from time to time, but for another third of people it's a big problem. They can't get their lives back into order and they can become permanently damaged."

t Detectives investigating the death of the Essex teenager Leah Betts have arrested four people and seized 900 tablets. They raided a cafe in Brentwood on Saturday night after a tip-off resulting from appeals for information about drug suppliers. Leah died last week after taking an ecstasy tablet at her 18th birthday party. Police said, however, that the arrests were not directly linked and they were still hunting the person who sold Leah the ecstasy that killed her.