Children as young as 10 are becoming hooked on 50p-a-pill ecstasy tablets in a disturbing new trend fuelled by rock-bottom prices.
Drug action teams are reporting that the drug, once favoured by clubbers, is now so cheap that schoolchildren are bingeing on as many as 20 pills at a time.
A shocking survey by Lifeline, a drugs misuse charity, reveals that ecstasy use has reached an all-time high with more than half the excluded children seen by its drug workers having used the drug. Its research shows that this includes a core of problematic users who are experimenting with the drug before they reach their teens and some are taking thousands of ecstasy pills a year. The trend is most widespread in major provincial cities and towns in the North.
Mark Linnell from Lifeline said the charity was now conducting research on the psychological effects on young people who take the drug, which has been linked with depression.
"Although the average age is 14, we are seeing children starting at 10 or 12," he said.
Ministers are under increasing pressure to clamp down on drug use, especially among young people, and have already drawn up a new drugs Bill, which includes tough measures on possession.
Last week, scientists revealed that the class A drug can cause damage to the body's immune system. However, some experts have argued that it does not cause as much harm as cocaine or heroin and have called for ecstasy to be reclassified as a Class B drug.Reuse content