Sep 23 2004
Research, conducted by experts at the Centre for Drug Misuse Research at the University of Glasgow, involving a survey of 2,318 ten to twelve year olds in Glasgow and Newcastle, reveals a unique insight into the factors behind illegal drug use by preteen children.
One third of the children had been exposed to illegal drugs, one in ten had been offered illegal drugs and almost one in twenty had started to use illegal drugs. The study reveals that drug use is starting with younger children today then at any time in the past. But what are the causes of illegal drug use on the part of such young children?
The researchers found that children who were living in families with a low level of parental supervision were eight times more likely to have started to use illegal drugs than children whose parents exercised a high level of supervision. The researchers also found out that children living in families where other people were using illegal drugs were seven times more likely to have started to use illegal drugs than their peers.
Preteen drug use was also associated with frequent smoking and alcohol consumption on the part of preteens and with involvement in a wide range of other problem behaviours at a young age (committing acts of vandalism, skipping school, being in trouble with the police and carrying a weapon).
The report calls for schools and parents to collaborate in tackling illegal drugs use by children. There is a need for schools to develop approaches to drug education that are tailored to the needs of individual pupils- recognising that even by age ten some pupils will have already started to use illegal drugs. There is also a need for parents to exercise much higher levels of supervision today than at any time in the past given the greater availability of illegal drugs.
Professor Neil McKeganey, Head of the Centre for Drug Misuse at the University of Glasgow, explains: 'This research shows that illegal drug use is occurring at an increasingly young age and that as a result drug prevention is a more important task today than at any time in the past. If we fail to meet the needs of these vulnerable young people we will face the horrifying prospect of increasing numbers of children who have become addicted to illegal drugs before their voices have broken'.