The Independent 15 April 2007
One in three young teenagers have used
cannabis, some on a daily basis, according to new research. The study
appears to confirm growing fears among teachers that joints have become
the 21st-century equivalent of smoking behind the bike sheds.
School heads and administrators are so
worried about the drug that they will gather this week at the first
conference of its kind to address the issue
Researchers found almost all those using
cannabis on a daily basis were also smoking and drinking, more than six
out of 10 had used ecstasy, nearly a third had tried cocaine, and one in
10 had tried heroin. The findings are based on a long-term study by
Queen's University, Belfast, of 4,000 pupils aged 14 and 15 and will be
published this week in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
Dr Anthony Seldon, master of Wellington
College, Berkshire, and organiser of the conference on Friday at
Wellington College, said: "I don't think there is a secondary school in
Britain that doesn't have a problem with drugs."
He is gathering together some of Britain's
top teachers, as well as senior police officers and experts from drugs and
mental health charities, in an attempt to find a way forward.
One of the speakers, Bernard Hogan-Howe,
Chief Constable of Merseyside, will be calling for a review of
"out-of-date assumptions" about cannabis, warning: "The legacy of people
taking this increased-strength drug today could be felt for generations to
Debra Bell, a parent whose 19-year-old son
has just entered treatment after five years of struggling with cannabis
abuse, will be calling for a health education campaign in schools.
"Thousands of families across the UK are in crisis," she said.
All this comes as a ferocious debate
continues over the mental health risks associated with skunk - a potent
new form of the drug far stronger than traditional cannabis - first
reported in this newspaper last month.
Additional reporting by Roger