Primary kids from Mansfield and Ashfield treated for drugs and alcohol abuse

MORE than 120 primary school children across the Mansfield and Ashfield area were admitted to hospital to be treated for drug or alcohol-related problems between January 2006 and the end of 2010 - but health specialists say these figures are encouraging compared to national statistics.

The figures, supplied by Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, have also revealed that 743 teenagers (aged 17 and under) were treated in A&E at King’s Mill Hospital or Newark Hospital for drugs or alcohol-related problems in the same time period - with 592 cases being for drugs.

And statistics recently released for 2011, obtained by Chad using the Freedom of Information Act, show that 69 children, aged under 16, were admitted to King’s Mill for drug-related problems with 49 girls and 20 boys treated.

According to the yearly figures, drug consumption (including non-recreational drugs and accidental overdoses) among children, mainly in Mansfield and Ashfield, remains stable since 2006 despite numerous drug initiatives promoted by police, schools and youth groups such as the pioneering Drug Abuse Resistance Education programme (D.A.R.E,).

But more encouragingly, there were only eight children, aged 16 and under, admitted to King’s Mill’s A&E department from 1st January to 30th November 2011, and substance abuse workers say local hospitals are better equipped than most to deal with the problem.

The figures have brought a mixed response from community leaders who feel society needs to address the risks involved with drug and alcohol misuse.

Mansfield Woodhouse councillor Joyce Bosnjak, former portfolio holder for children and young people’s services at Nottinghamshire County Council, said the problem would not go away without real intervention.

“While these figures demonstrate a slight decrease from last year we cannot ignore the fact that they are still much higher than they should be,” she said.

“We need to look further into the causes and the underlying reasons as to why our young people are using drugs and alcohol and we need to identify where exactly they are getting them from.

“Many young people who engage in these behaviours believe that they are completely invulnerable.”

Coun Bosnjak believes that safety awareness campaigns should also highlight accidental usage, on occasions when young people have accidentally taken prescription drugs found at home.

“It is about raising awareness of the negative effects of the misuse of drugs and alcohol and working with parents/carers and communities in order to protect our young people,” she added.

Richard Goad, chairman of D.A.R.E., said he feels encouraged that figures appear to be lower for alcohol but says many young people are not aware of the potentially tragic effects of substance misuse.

“Although the statistics are difficult to compare, in that the statistics of admissions from 2006 to 2011 relate to 17-year-olds and under, while those for 2011 relate only to 16-year-olds and under, there does appear to be a reduction in those being admitted in the last 12 months for drug and alcohol problems,” he said.

“Any reduction in the numbers is to be welcomed and we would like to think that the effect of D.A.R.E. training is having some influence on this reduction. We receive many expressions of appreciation and thanks for the D.A.R.E. lessons each term from parents, teachers and the pupils themselves.

“But it is a sad indictment of modern society that there were over twice as many young girls admitted to King’s Mill Hospital in 2011 than there were boys.

“It is a sad fact that many young people are not aware of the potentially tragic effects that the misuse of drugs (both legal and illegal), alcohol, tobacco and other substances can have on them.

“D.A.R.E. will continue to strive to achieve a society that understands - and is therefore resistant to – the adverse effects of drug and substance abuse.”