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26 December 2014, 06:27
The number of times children were treated in hospital as a result of illegal drugs has increased by more than a third in two years, new figures have revealed.
There were 119 incidents where youngsters aged between 10 and 18 required hospital attention after taking drugs in 2013, according to statistics obtained by the Liberal Democrats.
The figures, which were uncovered using freedom of information legislation, revealed an increase of 35% on 2011, when the total across Scotland was 88.
Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume said the increase was a "clarion call'' for action, saying youngsters needed to be educated about the risks of taking drugs.
The problem was worst in the NHS Lanarkshire area, where the data showed 38 occasions where children aged between 10 and 18 were taken to hospital after taking drugs last year - up from 18 in 2011.
In NHS Fife the total for such cases in 2013 was 25, up from nine two years ago, while in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde it rose from 14 to 23 over the same period.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said drug use was falling among young people, as well as among the population as a whole.
The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey for 2012/13 showed 6.2% of adults admitted using any type of drug in the last year, down from 6.6% in 2010/11.
Mr Hume said: "The increase in hospital admissions amongst young people for illegal drug-related illnesses may reflect that more people recognise that drug addiction is a health problem, not a criminal issue.
"But any increase in hospital admissions relating to illegal drug misuse cannot go unchallenged.
"This steady increase must serve as a clarion call to educate young people on the risks of illegal drugs.''
He added: "Gone are the days when those suffering from drug addiction were kept hidden from public view.
"In fact, the only way we can flush out the criminal groups and Mr Bigs reaping profits from addicts is to shine a light on illicit drug use.''
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "Latest statistics show that drug use among young people is falling, as well as amongst the general population.
"Between 2008/09 and 2012/13 there has been a decrease in reported drug use amongst both groups.
"We have made a record investment of over £224 million in frontline drug treatment and support services, with £30.4 million of this provided for frontline drug treatment services and support in 2014/15 alone, ensuring that young people in Scotland have credible and accessible advice on drugs to help them make the right health choices.''