Child of 11 on Heroin

50 primary pupils ‘are heroin addicts’


Key points


  • 50 primary school pupils using heroin in Glasgow, claims SNP politician
  • Claim follows collapse of 11-year-old girl in Pollok
  • Scale of teenage heroin use in Scotland remains undetermined

Key quote
“You can get drugs everywhere, but questions should be asked. Why put a methadone clinic next to a shopping centre? It is only going to attract drug users to the area.” – POLLOK TAXI DRIVER

Story in full UP TO 50 children of primary school age in Glasgow are regularly using heroin, it was claimed last night.

The shocking figure was revealed as it emerged that an 11-year-old girl had collapsed at a primary school in the city last week after smoking heroin. Yesterday, community leaders, health workers and politicians said the young girl’s case highlighted the need to tackle the drugs problem at an even younger age.

The girl, who has not been identified, was admitted to Glasgow’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children at Yorkhill on Wednesday, where she was reported to have shown severe withdrawal symptoms.

She remained in hospital last night and has been enrolled on an addiction treatment programme, one of the youngest ever to do so in the UK.

The girl admitted to social workers that she bought £10 bags of the class-A drug outside a shopping centre in Pollok, in the south of the city. She told doctors she had been smoking heroin for more than two months. Strathclyde Police and Glasgow City Council have launched separate investigations.

Last night, Stewart Stevenson, the Scottish National Party’s deputy justice spokesman, claimed that charities battling Scotland’s rampant drug problem had told him they were dealing with dozens of children of a similar age taking heroin. He said the youngsters were more likely to smoke the drug, a practice known as “chasing the dragon”, than inject it.

Of the 11-year-old girl, he said: “Unfortunately, she’s far from alone in that there are several dozen identified heroin addicts at primary school age in the Glasgow area. I understand there are probably as many as 50 primary school addicts in Glasgow. The Executive have spent practically nothing on training teachers in primary and early secondary to deal with this … I talk to a lot of people working with drug users and this is what I have been told.”

Gaille McCann, a Glasgow councillor who helped to set up Mothers Against Drugs after Allan Harper, 13, died from a heroin overdose in 1998, agreed that the latest case was not an isolated incident.

She said: “This is the harsh reality of the drug problem today, and it must not just become a seven-day story but instead act as a wake-up call to us all, particularly the policymakers in their ivory towers.”

However, Alistair Ramsay, the director of Scotland Against Drugs (SAD), warned against using anecdotal evidence to gauge the scale of the pre-teenage heroin problem.

He said SAD had trained thousands of teachers and school heads on how to deal with the effects of child or parental drug users.

Mr Ramsay said: “Thankfully, incidents like this are very rare, but when they occur they are truly shocking. Parents should not overreact, but if they know their child well they will spot changes in behaviour very quickly, and this will help with an early identification of a problem.”

Last year, experts at the University of Glasgow found that children as young as ten have experimented with heroin and cocaine. The researchers found that children aged between ten and 12 north of the Border were twice as likely to take drugs as their English counterparts.

Last night, the deputy justice minister, Hugh Henry, said: “Everyone is shocked when they hear about such a young person’s life being put at risk.

“This story gives further reinforcement, if any were needed, that we must keep up our broad approach to tackling drug abuse in society.”

Yesterday, residents in Pollok said they were shocked but not surprised at the case. Marguerita O’Neill, a community health worker, said: “I know there are drugs in every scheme, but this is horrifying. She was only 11 – it terrifies the life out of me.”

Neil Williams, a taxi driver, said: “You can get drugs everywhere, but questions should be asked. Why put a methadone clinic next to a shopping centre? It is only going to attract drug users to the area.”

The Labour MP for Glasgow South West, Ian Davidson, said the girl’s plight showed the importance of “sweeping up” low-level drug-dealing in the community, as well as the high-profile drug cartels.

He said: “Clearly, it’s a great worry to find that any primary school child is using hard drugs.

“We need to identify whether this is a particular issue to this family or, more worryingly, if this is the tip of the iceberg in terms of this sort of drug use among classmates.”

In a statement, Glasgow City Council said: “An 11-year-old child was admitted to hospital on an emergency basis last Wednesday with what appeared to heroin intoxication.

“We are monitoring the situation, and the ongoing case discussion will continue on Monday.”

Source: The Scotsman; 30 Jan 2006

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