Two thirds of 15-year-olds in the UK say they know where they can easily buy cannabis, and a quarter say it can easily be bought at school, according to new research.
As many as a fifth of 10- to 12-year-olds, and two thirds of 15-year-olds, say they have been offered drugs, the report by NHS Health Scotland finds. By the age of 15, at least one in 10 say they have been offered heroin, cocaine or crack cocaine.
Mobile phones and the internet are helping teenagers get access to drugs at a time when drug prices are falling in real terms, it adds. Despite age restrictions, a substantial minority of teenagers are also able to buy alcohol from pubs, off licences and shops by the age of 15.
Sally Hills, manager of a Children’s Society drugs and alcohol project for young people in Essex, said an eight-year-old using cannabis had recently been referred to the service.
“The eight-year-old was introduced to drugs by his 12-year-old brother,” she said. “We are also working with two sets of brothers under the age of 13, referred for their cannabis use.
“The number of younger people using cannabis alongside alcohol is increasing too. The consequences of all this on physical health, mental health, family life and education is quite huge.”
A spokesperson for the substance misuse charity Phoenix House added: “A stronger emphasis should be placed on teaching children about drugs at a younger age. At least then they have the knowledge they need to make an informed decision about whether to start taking them.”