59,000 Children In Scotland Have Parents With Drug Problems

Discussion in 'Marijuana News from The USA' started by weedboss, Jun 12, 2003.

  1. AS many as 59,000 children in Scotland have at least one parent with serious drug problems - double the proportion for England and Wales - according to a government report published yesterday.

    Hidden Harm, produced by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs ( ACMD ), estimated that there are between 41,000 and 59,000 children of problem drug users in Scotland, between 4% and 6% of all under-16s in the country.

    In England and Wales, up to 300,000 children, or 3%, have a parent addicted to drugs. Experts said better reporting, rather than more widespread drug abuse, was the reason for the higher figures in Scotland.

    The publication of the ACMD survey yesterday marks the first time any country in the world has attempted to gather such detailed information on numbers of children affected by drug use.

    The authors warned that the problem could be even more serious than the findings suggest.

    "We believe that these are very conservative estimates and the true figure may well be higher," the report said.

    It calls on the government to take practical steps to protect and nurture children affected by drug use in their families and to help parents tackle drug addiction. Such children suffer physical and psychological harm, often have to fend for themselves, and may have to look after their parents and younger siblings.

    The risks are greatest for those living with drug-using parents. This is estimated to be up to 19,500 children in Scotland, or around 2%.

    Across the UK, the proportion of drug users with dependent children rose by 6% to 45% from 1996 to 2000, while the proportion of these parents still living with their children fell from 49% to 43%.

    Laurence Gruer, chairman of the ACMD prevention working group, said: "Out of shame or fear, or simply because they're too young, such children are rarely able to speak to anyone about their experiences and can become isolated and excluded from society. Reducing the harm to these children should be a main aim of government drug policy."

    Dr Gruer was concerned that increasing numbers of parents who used drugs were frightened of seeking help because they believed their family would be split up.

    "Parents with serious drug problems should not be frightened away by services - they should feel they can come forward and get help without walking into more trouble," he said.

    Alistair Ramsey, director of Scotland Against Drugs, the charity, was on the ACMD committee for 10 years. He said the Scottish figures were more realistic than those for England and Wales because of more efficient data-gathering methods. The situation was equally serious in all regions of the UK, he said.

    "The tragedy is that there are some children who are growing up in family circumstances where drug-taking seems normal and in the future these children could also be in danger of becoming drug users themselves," he said. "It is a timebomb that we are going to have to tackle in the near future."

    Mr Ramsey said many children felt they had nowhere to turn for help.

    "Their lifestyle will not be supportive, their nutritional needs will not be looked after, and each day they will have to get themselves up and ready for school while their parents are still asleep," he said.

    "These children are in a dilemma because they think that, if they tell someone in authority about the problem, their family will be broken up by social services, and the parent might even be put in jail."

    Children told Hidden Harm their parent's drug use left them feeling rejected and ashamed.

    One 14-year-old girl from Glasgow said: "I felt different, like they ( her parents ) didn't care for me."

    Another 12-year-old girl described her feelings when she heard a talk on the dangers of drugs at the SECC in Glasgow.

    "It said heroin or something was the worst drug and it could kill you. I started crying when I came home because I thought that he ( her father ) was gonna die."
     

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