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Rise in number of teenage addicts

Northern Ireland has seen more than a threefold increase in the number of teenagers being treated for drug and alcohol misuse over the last two years, new figures show.

The census of drug and alcohol treatment services in Northern Ireland reveals that in March this year, 847 under-18s were being treated for addictions to substances ranging from drink to cocaine.

In March 2005, only 271 adolescents were receiving treatments for similar habits.

Voluntary organisations claim the problem will continue to escalate unless more is done to establish dedicated youth services to help addicts.

Jim Weir, an intervention team leader with the Forum for Action on Substance Abuse (FASA), said the situation is compounded by a lack of proper statutory treatment services for adolescents.

"GPs will farm them out to us and other community addiction teams," he said.

"If a young person is addicted to cocaine or alcohol they can't go in for rehab or detox. We have never developed a treatment service."

Representatives in areas hit by drug problems are calling for more resources and education to stop youngsters becoming addicted.

Sue Ramsey, a West Belfast MLA and Sinn Fein's spokeswoman on children and young people, said: "While we must continue to address the general malaise of drug and alcohol misuse, the increased numbers of young people being treated requires a special focus.

"The Departments of Health and Education need to cooperate. We need to make available the resources and specialist expertise to assist those already addicted."

Forum for Action on Substance Abuse

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