Recent studies suggest that the number of cases of drug poisoning in Sussex is on the rise. Reports state that the number of hospital admissions for drug poisoning has nearly doubled in the past five years.

According to The Argus 519 young people under the age of 19 were admitted to hospitals in Sussex – an increase of 28% from the 2002-03 figures. Two Brighton and Hove University hospitals treated 141 people aged up to 18 in 2007, including 17 children aged 10 or under. In addition to this two East Sussex hospitals treated 182 people, including 33 under 10 year-olds. Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson, said “these are horrifying statistics. The toll of damage from drugs is immense and the cost to the NHS is enormous.” Although the statistics released by the government were said to paint a ‘horrifying picture’ Health Officials stressed that many of the poisonings were due to allergic reactions or accidental overdoses of common medicine and antibiotics, and that it is impossible to tell how many cases are due to illegal substance abuse.

A Department of Health spokesperson said “The last thing vulnerable children need is a Prime Minister who disregards scientific advice just to appear tough. It is wrong to suggest that 60,000 young people have taken drug overdoses on the basis of these figures which include adverse reactions to prescribed medicines accidentally in homes as well as overdoses, both intentional and accidental.”

In order to calm the public’s concern, the government stated that they are working on “reducing the harm that drug misuse can cause [and] are committed to doing all we can to further reduce the number of deaths associated with drug use.”

Ironically, there is evidence that illegal drugs may not in fact be as harmful as many believe. A study in March 2007 conducted by Professor Nutt of the ACMD (Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs), suggested that ecstasy is a physically and socially less harmful drug than tobacco and alcohol. Nutt was not advocating the use of drugs, however, as he said “Let’s treat people as adults, tell them the truth and hopefully work with them to minimize its use”.

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