They must learn the hard truth

28th April 2006 at 01:00
We were once shocked by a picture of former EastEnders soap star Daniella Westbrook showing how her nasal septum had been destroyed by a cocaine habit that reportedly cost pound;300 a day. The emotional price was much heavier -she attempted suicide because she "despised" herself. But the comeback of catwalk queen Kate Moss after allegations of snorting the class A drug on rolled-up pound;5 notes appears to reflect a growing trend of hard drug abuse by girls and women. A shocking Welsh Assembly report says 30 per cent of all alcohol and drug referrals for girls aged 15 to 19 were for cocaine addiction last year, compared with 13 per cent for boys.

Cocaine may normally be associated with high-flying city types and celebrities, but falling prices mean school children can now afford it. One in 50 children aged 11 to 15 in the UK have experimented with "zip" and "tickets", as they call it in the playground. Alarmingly, just as many teenage girls in Wales now receive treatment for cocaine abuse as women in their 20s and 30s.

Why is the hard drug habit rising quickly among girls, and what should schools be doing to tackle it?

The rise of a "ladette" binge-drinking culture, and Assembly statistics showing more teenage girls are being treated for alcohol, heroin and amphetamine abuse than boys, point to a wider trend. Rehabilitation facilities geared to dealing with teenagers are now in short supply.

Security measures to stop drug dealing in our playgrounds and preventive education geared to girls need to be improved. Rhondda Cynon Taf has taken a lead by getting children to look at the consequences of Kate Moss's alleged habit. But schools must get tough if we are to prevent many more teenagers facing misery or being dragged into a cycle of drug-taking and crime. Would the message have a greater impact if we had random drug testing in our classrooms?

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