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Hippy crack fuels ‘steep rise in teenagers using drugs’ – as more dabble with illegal substances than smoke, experts warn

New figures from NHS Digital show almost one in four 11 to 15 year olds admit experimenting with drugs in the last year

6 November 2017

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Getty Contributor

Hippy crack, or laughing gas, is fuelling a rise in the number of young people dabbling with illegal substances, experts said

MORE young teens are dabbling with drugs than smoking cigarettes for the first time on record, research shows.

Experts said hippy crack was fuelling a steep rise in the use of illegal substances.

New data from last year shows 24 per cent of 11-15 years olds admit experimenting with drugs in their lifetime.

It is up from 15 per cent in 2014, according to NHS Digital data.

 New figures reveal more teenagers are dabbling with drugs than smoking cigarettes for the first time on record

Getty Contributor; New figures reveal more teenagers are dabbling with drugs than smoking cigarettes for the first time on record

 

Officials said it was the first year youngsters were asked whether they used nitrous oxide – also known as laughing gas or hippy crack – or legal highs.

But said the extra questions were not enough to explain rocketing numbers of users.

Statistician Paul Niblett, from NHS Digital, said: “Drug use has reached 24 per cent according to the survey.

“It is a large increase from 2014. But we have not seen similar rises in other surveys, so we will have to wait until 2018 to be certain this reflects a genuine trend.”

 The NHS Digital stats show 25 per cent of youngsters had tried e-cigs – up from 22 per cent two years earlier
ALAMY
The NHS Digital stats show 25 per cent of youngsters had tried e-cigs – up from 22 per cent two years earlier

 

Other findings show 25 per cent of youngsters had tried e-cigs – up from 22 per cent two years earlier.

And regular use of the devices has doubled since 2014 to two per cent.

Almost half of 11-15 year old had drunk alcohol at least once, according to the report.

"These findings are very concerning, especially the high numbers of children who report having been drunk recently"

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair Of The Alcohol Health Alliance UK

 

It shows 44 per cent had tried booze, with girls more likely to drink than boys.

Although the figures are up from 2014, officials say the data is not comparable due to a change in questions.

One in 11 admitted being drunk in the past month.

Officials advise kids should not try alcohol until they are at least 15.

 The figures also show almost half of 11 to 15 year olds had drunk alcohol at least once, with girls more likely to booze than boys
GETTY - CONTRIBUTOR
The figures also show almost half of 11 to 15 year olds had drunk alcohol at least once, with girls more likely to booze than boys

 

Campaigners said the findings were worrying, with Brit youngsters among the heaviest boozers among developed nations.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, said: “These findings are very concerning, especially the high numbers of children who report having been drunk recently.

“It is clear from the data that levels of children’s drinking in the UK remain among the highest in the Western world.”


NO LAUGHING MATTER What is hippy crack, what are the side effects of laughing gas and are the highs illegal?


But anti-smoking charities welcomed the latest findings.

The survey found seven per cent of 15-year-olds were regular smokers - the lowest level on record.

It is down two-thirds in a decade.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said it showed “good progress”.

Nitrous oxide is commonly used as a painkiller by dentists and doctors during childbirth.

 Anti-smoking charities welcomed the stats, which showed the lowest level of teenage smokers on record
GETTY - CONTRIBUTOR
Anti-smoking charities welcomed the stats, which showed the lowest level of teenage smokers on record

 

But Appeal Court judges this week ruled using laughing gas as a party drug is illegal.

Yasmin Batliwala, chair of drugs and alcohol charity WDP, said: “The evidence for a rise in drug use amongst young people is something that we must all be aware of.

“Statistics from 2016 show that the Netherlands has the highest rate of young people taking MDMA (approximately 5.5%), closely followed by the UK (approximately 3.5%).”

Commenting on the report, Professor Peter Hajek, Director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit, Queen Mary University of London. said: “The data on experimentation with drugs and alcohol provide some reasons for concern, but there is also some good news.

"Only 19 per cent of the sample had ever tried a cigarette. This is important because over 60 per cent of kids who try one cigarette become daily smokers, at least temporarily."

It comes as a study this week warned e-cigarettes are a gateway to tobacco and teenagers are more likely to become regular smokers after vaping.

 

 

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