TEENAGERS HOOKED ON DRUGS, BINGE-DRINKING, SMOKING AND UNDERAGE SEX, WARN CONSERVATIVES.
The scale of the health problems facing youngsters aged 11 to 19 was laid bare perhaps for the first time by official figures from the NHS Information Centre.
The number of young people admitted to hospital for treatment because they have abused alcohol, cigarettes and drugs has soared. Almost a third of children start their teenage years obese.
“It is a sad indictment of our broken society that so many are turning to drug and alcohol abuse at such a young age,” said Shadow secretary for public health Andrew Lansley, a day before his speech at the Reform think-tank on his party’s public-health proposals to address some of these problems.
Statistics show that the number of teenagers admitted to hospital for alcohol abuse rose by 51%, from 8,411 in 2000 to 12,682 last year. This includes admissions for diagnosed ‘primary’ conditions specifically related to alcohol, such as mental disorders, liver disease and alcohol poisoning. It also covers ‘secondary’ cases for admissions for such things as drunken accidents.
Hospital admissions of teenagers with conditions linked to heavy smoking, including bronchitis and lung illnesses, rocketed by 41% over the same period, from 11,540 to 16,214. The problem is worsening among children aged 11-15, among whom there was a 63% rise in referrals for treatment at hospital.
The number of teenagers needing hospital treatment for illegal drug use rose slightly, by 2% since 2000, to 2,412 last year. They were admitted for problems linked to the use of heroin, cocaine and cannabis. But figures published this month show the number of under-16s taken to hospital to treat overdoses or drug-induced mental illnesses has increased by 43% 1,241 since Labour came to power in 1997.
Also, a culture of promiscuity among teenagers has sent rates of sexually transmitted infections soaring by 21% since 2003, and increased the number of teenage girls having abortions by 15%, to 41,703 last year.
The Tories said the cost of treating teenagers in hospital for binge-drinking, smoking, drug use and underage sex is about £130million a year..
Lansley advocated the creation of ring-fenced budgets for the specific purpose of dealing with the growing health problems of alcohol, drugs and tobacco.