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More youngsters "seek cocaine help"

A total of 50% more children are being treated for cocaine addiction compared to three years ago, but the heroin "epidemic" has peaked, according to the National Treatment Agency (NTA).

The NTA saw 745 youngsters under the age of 18 seek help to give up cocaine last year, up from 453 in 2005/6.

The most worrying figures show that, among the group, 14 children aged 12-14, 169 youngsters aged 14-16 and 15 children aged 12 or under needed help to get off the Class A drug.

However, last year the agency treated 657 crack and heroin users, 424 fewer than three years ago.

Overall, almost 25,000 under-18s needed treatment for drugs and alcohol in 2008 - half of those were for cannabis and more than a third were for alcohol misuse.

Rosanna O'Connor, Director of Delivery at the NTA, said use of the drug heroin was also falling among 18-to-24-year-olds.

She added: "Most young people receiving substance misuse interventions cannot be described as addicts in the same way as adults in treatment.

"Addiction is normally the result of regular, consistent use of substances over time; most under-18s who have problems have not pursued drug-taking long enough to result in dependency."

Copyright © Press Association 2009

National Treatment Agency

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"More awareness that their bodies are still growing and the effects of these drugs on the developing nervous system is as yet not fully known. There is too much information from the media which I feel normalises the use of drugs" - Christina Milligan, Scotland