Huge rise in children treated for cocaine poisoning

Author: By Jack Doyle, Press Association

In less than a decade the number of under-18s rushed to accident and emergency
departments in England after overdosing on the class A drug has rocketed by
nearly 375 per cent.

Department of Health figures released to the Press Association showed that 60
children and young people were admitted to hospital for acute cocaine
poisoning in 2007/8.

That is up from from just 16 in 1998/9, and double the level of only three
years ago.

They are among almost 1,500 youngsters admitted to NHS hospitals for drug
poisoning every year.

Among the drugs they have overdosed on are cannabis, LSD, heroin, and heroin
substitute methadone.

Martin Barnes, chief executive of charity DrugScope, said there was growing
evidence some teenagers were combining cocaine with alcohol abuse.

He said falling levels in the purity of cocaine means users could be more in
danger of overdosing if they buy a purer form of the drug.

“If someone is used to a relatively low purity drug and they suddenly get hold
of a strong batch that might be a contributory factor,” he said.

He added: “There is clearly an emerging pattern between cocaine, alcohol and
cannabis use.”

“People do underestimate the harm that cocaine can do and young people
experimenting with that drug in particular are taking very significant
risks.”

Falls in the price of cocaine mean a line now costs as little as £1.

Despite this, law enforcement agencies say more cocaine is being intercepted,
forcing dealers to reduce purity and price.

Suppliers are known to sell different purities of the drug to different
markets, depending on their target customer.

Around one fifth of cocaine is only 5 per cent pure, while some other batches
are up to 30 per cent pure.

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