Increasing numbers of young people, some as young as 11, are becoming addicted to drugs includingcannabis and legal highs, according to a local support group.
Secretary of Preventing Addiction Larne (PAL) Beverly White spoke to The Times after World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10.
Over the past year, 509 people of all ages have used PAL’s centre for issues such as alcohol and drug addiction, including prescription drugs and legal highs, suicide, self-harm and mental health problems. Of these, 153 users were aged 25 and under.
Beverly told The Times: “We are seeing younger children coming in for help now, from first year at secondary school at the age of 11 upwards.
“Cannabis would be the main thing which they use as a starting point for other things, but there are also kids of that age using legal highs. It’s not hard for them to get hold of.
“Prescription drugs have always been around and we would have quite a few clients coming through the door for that sort of problem.”
The local drugs awareness worker says that there are several reasons why young people experiment with drugs, including peer pressure, boredom, confidence issues and difficulties at home.
She claimed that it is ‘very easy’ for young people to get hold of legal highs and prescription drugs in the Larne area.
Beverly commented: “They spend their pocket money on drugs as they are quite cheap. Children pool their money .”
She added: “PAL have been calling for the legal high shop in Larne’s closure from we started back in 2010, and it is good to see the council being pro-active.”
However, she warned: “Closing the shop will not get rid of the problem as they will still be available online and through other avenues.
“People would also go to their doctors and sell on prescription drugs .”
Beverly says that the impact of drugs use amongst young people ‘rips apart the community.’ She added: “Education is still needed for young people and parents-the cycle needs to be broken. We also provide counselling for young people and help their families.”
PAL’s two counsellors and therapist offer free relaxation therapies and support. Ring 028 28273335, send a private Facebook message or email firstname.lastname@example.org