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Drugs use in Scotland 'may be worse than reported'

A youth charity has warned that drug use among young people may be higher than reported.

Drugs: Use among young people higher than reported.
Drugs: Use among young people higher than reported.

Drug use among young people in Scotland may be higher than reported in national statistics, it has been suggested.

In a study carried out by youth support charity Includem and the Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice (CYCJ), youth workers believe there has not been a decline in the number of young people using substances.

This is despite official statistics published four years ago outlining a fall in drug use among under 15s from 37% to 19% between 2002 and 2015.

Last year, the number of drug-related deaths in Scotland rose to 1,187 - the highest since records began in 1996.

The youth workers who took part in the study, who are employed by Includem, said support for those using drugs needs to be tailored to meet individual needs and to get to the root cause of why an individual is using substances.

They also warned of the seriousness of "drug debts" that young people can get themselves into, which can start out by owing money to their peers. Includem chief executive Martin Dorchester said staff at the charity are "well placed" to judge levels of misuse.

"Substance misuse continues to be a real issue for a significant number of young people we work with," he said. "We are just not seeing the falling drug misuse rates within this group.

"Our workers on the ground are well placed to judge true levels of misuse, and see the consequences of it every day.

"On the surface these falling figures seem encouraging but drill down to what is happening on the streets and our staff will tell a different story."

He added: "Substance misuse is an issue that affects people in many ways. "If we are serious about reducing these unacceptable rates of drug deaths we need to invest in early intervention preventative work with those groups of young people most at risk of serious drug misuse.

"The way young people view alcohol and drugs is constantly evolving, as are the types of substances available and how young people use them.

"It's really important that we keep an eye on these trends and make sure our staff are as informed as possible so they can support young people as best they can. "This type of study equips us with the knowledge to do this."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "While it is welcome that levels of illicit drug consumption among the general population - including young people - are falling, we will continue to work closely with relevant bodies, including charities, local Alcohol and Drug Partnerships, and Police Scotland to understand emerging trends.

"As set out in our refreshed alcohol and drug treatment strategy, we want to ensure all people who require effective treatment have access to it. We expect all relevant services to provide tailored support to young people who need it, helping reduce problem substance use and its associated harms. "Young people need to be equipped with the skills and knowledge to challenge and resist misinformation and pressure through social media.

"We are continuing to develop our online resources to ensure they provide accurate and relevant information around alcohol and drug use and how to access help."

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