The plummeting price of cocaine is behind teenagers as young as 13 being treated for cocaine abuse, warns drugs and alcohol charity Addaction.
The influx of youths requiring treatment across Scotland has been so severe that the charity has lowered the age threshold of its services from 14 to 13.
In South Lanarkshire, 62 people under the age of 16 used Addaction’s services in 18 months, while in Argyll Bute, staff have reported an increase in both the availability and purity of cocaine.
The problem with young people using cocaine is that it’s an appalling drug for growing brains
The drug is also the primary problem for the charity in South Ayrshire, while cases are also on the rise in Fife across all age groups.
Jacqueline Baker-Whyte, who leads the Addaction’s services in Hamilton where youngsters aged just 13 have been treated, said: “We’ve had 13-year-olds attend our service for help with cocaine problems. It’s obviously a very small number of kids, but there are quite a few in the 15 plus age group.
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“In general we’ve never seen so many people come to us for problems with cocaine. Part of the reason is price, but it’s also about supply. Young people in particular are using social media and the dark web to buy cocaine.”
The drop in street price has opened up the availability of the drug beyond the affluent circles that it is traditionally associated with.
We're seeing teenagers as young as 13 in Scotland with cocaine dependency.
— Addaction (@AddactionUK) July 9, 2018
But it also means that users are purchasing in larger quantities or buying a higher strength product for only slightly more than the going-rate – increasing the chances of addiction and mental health problems.
Jacqueline added: “In the past, cocaine was a drug for people with money. That’s no longer the case. It’s cheap, plentiful and easy to get. The ‘quality’ is usually poor and the side effects can be horrendous. The problem with young people using cocaine is that it’s an appalling drug for growing brains. It’s hard to think of a worse substance for mental health; that’s aside from the significant physical effects and the problems with dependency.”
The news comes on the back of the number of drug deaths in the country hitting a 22-year high with 934 drug-related deaths recorded in 2017 – an eight per cent rise on the previous year.