A government campaign to highlight the health risks of teenagers
taking class A drugs such as heroin and cocaine was launched yesterday
to coincide with the run-up to New Year's Eve.

The latest official figures estimate that 675,000 16-19 year olds
regularly take drugs and that up to 220,000 use class A drugs such as
heroin, cocaine and ecstasy.

The publicity campaign is using radio and magazine advertising, and
posters in clubs and colleges. It marks a sharp departure from the
"just say no" campaigns, concentrating instead on educating young
people and their parents on the health risks and dangers of drug use.

It advises them to call a national 24-hour helpline on 0800 776600 for
information about the risks of drug taking before they find out by
personal experience. All calls are confidential. Last year the
helpline had 275,000 calls from teenagers.

"Drug-related deaths make the headlines, but what many young people do
not know about are the less dramatic side-effects of taking class A
drugs. These can include long-term medical problems such as panic
attacks, paranoia, depression and sleeplessness," the Home Office
drugs minister, Bob Ainsworth, said.

The publicity campaign was ordered by the home secretary, David
Blunkett, at the end of October when he announced his intention to
relax the law on cannabis use.

The government's advisory council on the misuse of drugs is examining
the medical impact of the proposal to reclassify cannabis so that the
police no longer have the power to arrest someone for possession.

Newshawk: puff_tuff
Pubdate: Fri, 28 Dec 2001
Source: Guardian, The (UK)
Copyright: 2001 Guardian Newspapers Limited
Contact: letters@guardian.co.uk
Website: http://www.guardian.co.uk/guardian/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/175
Author: Alan Travis, home affairs editor The Guardian