Children at risk from drugs menace

CHILDREN as young as 11 are putting themselves in serious danger by overdosing on cannabis, it emerged today.

CHILDREN as young as 11 are putting themselves in serious danger by overdosing on cannabis, it emerged today.

Top level ambulance staff and drug strategy experts have warned that the age children are experimenting with the drug has dropped markedly in recent years, with many unable to handle its effects.

The East of England Ambulance Service today confirmed that it was not uncommon to be called to help a child as young as 11 or 12 suffering the effects of a cannabis overdose - also known as “whiteout”.

And drug experts warned that with every puff of a cannabis joint youngsters are doing serious damage to their health.

Jason Gillingham, clinical field operations manager for the ambulance service, said: “Quite often we get called to people when they smoke their first joint because they really don't know what they're getting into.

“We've seen the age of these people decline. Quite often they're very nauseous, vomiting, very heavily disorientated, confused and quite frightened.

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“The perception we feel the public have is cannabis is a harmless drug - I can assure you it isn't. We've seen individuals that have required hospital admission following an overdose on cannabis.”

Drug experts have warned that cannabis use is often only the beginning of a spiral into decline for children, with it acting as a gateway to the seedy world of dealers and harder drugs.

Simon Aalders, co-ordinator of the Suffolk Drug and Alcohol Action Team, warned: “What it does is it puts young people in touch with people who may be able to get other sorts of drugs. You get in touch with a sub-culture of people who do have access to heroin and cocaine and things like that.”

And beyond that are the health dangers children face by getting involved in drugs, he said.

“Young people shouldn't be smoking cannabis and they shouldn't be smoking tobacco. They are inhaling hot smoke into their young lungs and that does all sorts of damage to lungs which are still developing.”

Tibbs Pinter, who heads drug strategy for Ipswich Borough Council, said research in Ipswich had shown young boys in particular were getting heavily involved in the cannabis scene.

Mr Pinter, who is helping to organise an event this month aimed at leading children away from use of the drug, said: “The heavy and frequent use was mainly with young boys and the resulting behaviour was such that they became very withdrawn and they had no real social interaction in their lives. Days were rolling into years spent in a haze of cannabis use and Xbox playing.

“Secondly we are picking up reports of them becoming more depressed, more lethargic and less interested in changing their lifestyle.”

If you are worried about your drug or alcohol use, or that of a friend or relative, then call the Suffolk DAAT helpline on 01473 299640 between 9am and 6pm, Monday to Friday to get advice and information.

For more information about drugs log-on to the FRANK website or phone 0800 77 66 00.

Has your child learned the dangers of cannabis use the hard way? What can parents do to avoid their children facing the same fate? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail

EFFORTS to convince young people to resist from taking up cannabis use have led to Ipswich hosting a Health Jam event this month.

The July 30 event on Ipswich's Cornhill will see organisers promote healthy living in order to demonstrate alternative choices to smoking cannabis.

The afternoon will include sports activities and live music, as well as advice on how to deal with drug problems and healthy eating.

A range of agencies will have stalls on the Cornhill and there will be live music organised by CSV Media.

Practical health information will be available and the Suffolk Young People's Health Project (4YP) will be highlighting the services and opportunities available for young people.

Heath Jam will run from noon until 4pm.