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Child cocaine addicts increase 50%

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New figures show the number of children treated for an addiction to cocaine has increased by 50% in three years.

The National Treatment Agency (NTA) data showed that 745 children under the age of 18 were treated in England for cocaine abuse last year.

The number of children treated in 2005-06 was 453.

Fifteen children aged 12 or younger were treated for misuse of the Class A drug. In the 12-14 age-group, 14 children sought help, while 169 14-16 year-olds were also treated for addiction.

The NTA figures showed that overall, almost 25,000 under 18s sought help for drug or alcohol abuse last year.

Half of those were for cannabis, more than a third for alcohol, but fewer teenagers are seeking treatment for crack and heroin.

Last year the agency treated 657 crack and heroin users, down from 1,081 in 2005/6.

The falls reflect similar declines in crack and heroin use among young adults aged 18 to 24. Rosanna O’Connor, director of delivery at the NTA, said the figures indicated the heroin “epidemic” had peaked.

She said: “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.”

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