BY ANTHONY QUINN
THE number of children officially recorded with drug and alcohol addictions in the local area has increased almost threefold over the past two years.
A total of 61 children (classed as 17 or under) are currently being treated for addictions in the Southern health board area which includes Dungannon District, increasing from 21 in 2010.
Alarmingly, 41 of the children are trying to beat an addiction to drugs while the remaining 20 are being treated for an alcohol addiction only.
The figures were released by the Department of Health in its latest Census of Drug and Alcohol Treatment Services in Northern Ireland.
A spokesperson for the Southern Health and Social Care Trust described how specially designed services were being targeted at children as young as eight.
“The Southern Trust offers support for young people with drug and alcohol problems through the ‘Opportunity Youth’ CHILL Project”, she said.
“CHILL supports young people aged eight to 18 who are either directly or indirectly affected by alcohol or drugs through mentoring, befriending, group work, and counselling services. CHILL also offers support to parents and families. CHILL can be contacted directly (Tel: 028 3752 5481) or you can be referred by your GP.”
The trust has also appointed a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Practitioner to support young people under 18 with mental health and addiction issues.
“We would encourage any young person with drug or alcohol problems to seek help from an adult or go to their GP who will refer them to the most appropriate service. Urgent referrals will be seen as quickly as possible”, she said.
“The Lifeline Helpline service is also available for anyone in distress or despair by telephoning 0808 808 8000. Trained counsellors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to offer confidential help and support on many issues e.g. addiction, self-harm, abuse, depression or trauma. Or visit www.lifelinehelpline.info”
Earlier this year, the Tyrone Times reported how drug dealers in the Coalisland area were giving free doses of crystal meth to young teenagers.
One Coalisland mother recounted how her desperate drug-addicted fifteen year old stole from her and dealt to other children in order to feed his habit.
The woman, who did not want her name mentioned to protect the identity of her son, described how he went from a loving, obedient, sports-mad son to ‘ a stranger with violent mood swings’ who stole from her and assaulted her.
The transformation, which began after he was giving drugs for free at the age of 14, and culminated in an arrest by the police and the boy going into care, took place in four short months.
A GP in the Dungannon District has warned parents of the alarming rise in illegal drug abuse among young teenagers.
“GPs are seeing an increasing number of patients with drug problems and unfortunately this is showing up in kids of as young as 13 or 14”, he said.
“There is a combination of the old drugs such as cannabis and cocaine and some of the newer drugs such as methedrone.
“One of the problems is people seem to have the idea that these newer “designer drugs” are safe. However, they have a number of side effects Severe nosebleeds have been reported after snorting as well as anxiety and paranoia.
“There is also the risk of over-stimulating the heart and the nervous system, which would increase the chances of having a fit.
“They can also become a gateway to other drugs. Another problem with these newer drugs is that the long term effects are unknown as they have not been around long enough to have been properly studied.
“If you have any concerns with drug misuse you can contact your GP for advice. There are also a number of helplines to contact for confidential advice. An excellent local service is Breakthru in Dungannon.
“They offer guidance and counselling for drug and alcohol problems. Their number is 02887753228. Another resource available is TalktoFrank which is a confidential friendly service on 0800776600.”