England - Pupils' use of cocaine doubles

By klaatu · Mar 25, 2006 · ·
  1. klaatu
    25th March 2006

    One in five secondary pupils takes illegal drugs and the use of cocaine among schoolchildren has doubled in a year, one of the biggest Government surveys of its kind said yesterday.

    It found that one in 100 11-year-olds had taken a Class A drug, such as cocaine, ecstasy or heroin, and one in 10 of 15-year-olds dabbled in hard drugs.

    David Davis: 'Labour has let drugs flow into our towns and playgrounds'

    The survey, carried out among England's 3.4 million secondary pupils, is a great embarrassment to the Government, undermining multi-million-pound campaigns such as Talk to Frank which were designed to curb drug and alcohol misuse.

    Recent figures showed that deaths in the "cocaine culture" had risen by more than 600 per cent since 1996, with a record 139 deaths in 2002, despite ministers' promises of a crackdown on drug use among the young. Britain is said to have the highest level of cocaine use in Europe.

    Commenting on the survey, David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said: "By failing to secure our porous borders, Labour has let hard drugs flow into our towns and playgrounds. By declassifying cannabis, it sent out the message that it is OK to take this drug.

    "Labour should be ashamed that, after nine years in power, cocaine use among schoolboys and girls has doubled, destroying young lives and betraying a whole generation of young people."

    Drink is another major problem. One in four of the 9,000 11- to 15-year-olds questioned told the Information Centre for Health and Social Care that they had had a drink in the previous week. The figure for 11-year-olds was three per cent and 50 per cent among 15-year-olds.

    Prof Denise Lievesley, the centre's chief executive, said: "The survey illustrates that the levels of drugs, drink and cigarettes used by children aged 11 to 15 have remained constant for the past five years despite increased attention to such behaviour."

    A quarter of pupils of all ages said they had been offered cannabis; 12 per cent had tried other drugs and four per cent had taken cocaine, heroin, ecstasy or LSD.

    Six per cent of 11-year-olds said they had taken drugs in the previous year, ranging from tranquillisers to Class A drugs, compared with a third of 15-year-olds. Overall, the number of 11- to 15-year-olds who said they had taken cocaine doubled to two per cent.

    Boys admitted drinking more alcohol than girls: an average of 11.5 units a week compared with 9.5 for girls.

    Girls were more likely to be regular smokers (10 per cent compared with seven per cent of boys). There is also a steep increase in the prevalence of smoking with age: one per cent of 11-year-olds compared with 20 per cent of 15-year-olds.

    The Department of Health's response to the report avoided any specific reference to the drugs problem, concentrating instead on alcohol.

    It said: "These latest figures show that progress is being made in reducing the number of young people who have drunk alcohol in the last week and the highest number ever, since these surveys began, say they have never had a drink."


    Don't they realise that kids tell fibs? I wonder if they did a survey and asked the kids if they had been abducted by space aliens how many of them would say yes. News headlines: Our children at risk from Martian predators - one in ten children have been abducted according to survey.

    Klaatu (cynic)

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  1. FrankenChrist
    Government ey?
    Weren't there traces of cocaine found in the toilets of the houses of parliament a couple of years back?
  2. klaatu
    It's easy to find references to Coke being found in various Parliaments by doing a quick Google. The biggest recent story concerned the European Parliament in Brussels.

    I've copied an example of piss-poor journalism from piss-poor newspaper The People which uncovers the "lethal powder" in various important places in the UK...

    11 December 2005

    We uncover scandal of lethal powder smuggled into Westminster under noses of gun cops Druggies snort coke yards from MPs in debates

    DEADLY cocaine is being snorted in the very heart of the Houses of Parliament, a shocking People investigation reveals today.

    We found undeniable evidence of the class A substance just YARDS from where MPs debate key issues - including Britain's mounting drugs crisis.

    Amazingly, cocaine - nicknamed Charlie - is being smuggled into the historic Palace of Westminster despite the tightest security clampdown ever seen there.

    Our investigator, armed with special wipes like those issued to FBI agents and British drug cops, tested surfaces in toilets used by MPs and visitors.

    And the result was POSITIVE for the illegal white powder.

    The People's revelations come after Labour Left winger Dennis Skinner was booted out of the Commons for a jibe about Shadow Chancellor George Osborne and coke - a claim the Tory denies.

    David Cameron - who made his debut as Opposition leader last week - has refused to say whether he ever used cocaine.

    Westminster's splendid Gothic building is just one of the centres of power where we discovered evidence of cocaine abuse.

    The People's investigator posed as a tourist to join people queuing at the St Stephen's entrance to see a debate in the Mother of Parliaments.

    Despite the airport-style, anti-terror checks and armed police, she found it easy to slip away from the group once inside. Our girl walked across the ornate central lobby - the "crossroads" between Commons and Lords - where Parliamentary giants such as Churchill and Gladstone once strode.

    She was stopped twice by police but bluffed her way past them to reach stairs leading to the Select Committee rooms.

    Then as two armed guards approached she ducked into the toilets. There she wiped surfaces with the highly accurate Nik swabs, which are sensitive to even the slightest residue.

    They immediately turned a tell-tale blue.

    Proving this was not a freak finding, our investigator also discovered cocaine traces at the new Portcullis House, which houses MPs' offices, and nearby St Stephen's Tavern, a popular haunt for MPs and aides. Labour home affairs select committee member Steve McCabe urged The People to alert police to the findings. He said: "If there is any evidence that people are taking cocaine in the Commons or anywhere else it is a police matter."

    Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten said: "I'm absolutely shocked by your findings.

    "I'm really surprised that cocaine was found in the Houses of Parliament and I am amazed that people could be so stupid as to use it there."

    He urged the Government to "get a grip" on its drug policy.

    Shadow health minister Tim Loughton said: "Nowhere is immune from drugs. All these official places are a microcosm of society, and society has a drug problem - which makes it no less unacceptable."

    And Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said: "We will continue to reduce the damage caused by the most dangerous drugs by ensuring that effective treatment is available as soon as it is needed." There has been an explosion in the use of cocaine - once reserved for the rich and celebs such as supermodel Kate Moss - as its price plummets.

    The estimated number of users in Britain soared from 180,000 in 1996 to 640,000 in 2003.

    Snorting cocaine powder, extracted from the coca plant, gives an instant hit of euphoria.

    But it speeds up the heart rate, which can cause a coronary attack and even sudden death.

    At St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, west London, one in three young men visiting casualty with chest pains has been on cocaine.

    Professor John Henry, warned: "We are going to see more severe addiction, more strokes and heart attacks."

    Cocaine also damages the nose. Ex-EastEnder Daniella Westbrook had her septum rebuilt after coke sprees.


    Courts of Justice

    WE found cocaine traces in men's toilets next to the advocates' robing room at the London courts where high-profile cases are decided. There was evidence of the drug near where a cistern is mounted on a wall.

    Portcullis House

    OUR investigator found drug traces in a cubicle in the gents at the new buidling housing MPs' offices and committee rooms. Someone had dared to smuggle in cocaine in defiance of the airport-style security checks.

    Welsh Assembly

    PEOPLE investigator shows the cocaine testing swab which proved positive at the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff. Cocaine was found around taps in toilets 20 yards from where Welsh MPs were holding a debate.

    Chelsea Football Club

    THE scourge of cocaine appears to have soccer fans in its grip, The People discovered. There were traces of the white powder in the supporters' toilets at Stamford Bridge, the west London ground of Premiership champions Chelsea. But at least there was no evidence of the club's mega wealthy stars falling prey to cocaine abuse. Our investigation revealed there were no traces of the drug in the players' plush loos.

    St Stephen's Tavern

    AT St Stephen's Tavern, a favourite watering hole for MPs and their cronies on the corner of Canon Row, there were signs of cocaine abuse. Traces of the drug showed up on top of a cistern in the gents.

    Old Bailey

    EVIDENCE of cocaine was found in every toilet at the Central Criminal Court, where many a big-time drug dealer has had his come-uppance. Even loos near the barristers' robing room at the Bailey were tainted.

    Scottish Parliament

    TESTS revealed that the toilets next to the debating chamber at the impressive Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh were drug free. Scots MPs have private facilities at their offices in the building...

    Jenny Ha's bar

    ...BUT cocaine traces were found by The People in the men's and women's toilets at Jenny Ha's, 50 yards from the Scottish Parliament. The bar is a favourite spot for MPs and political aides to relax.


  3. Nagognog2
    Sounds like something you would read in the Daily Mirror. Tabloid dogfood at best. Stun & Shock Journalism. At least it should scare the elderly enough to not leave their houses.
  4. klaatu
    No, Nag - far worse than that. It's "The People". A tabloid of the very worst kind here in the UK. Actually "News of the World" is slightly worse.

  5. Motorhead
    When the facts get in the way of a story

    Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, 3rd April 2006

    Nothing comes for free: if you can cope with 400 words on statistics, we can trash a front page news story together. "Cocaine floods the playground," roared the front page of the Times last Friday. "Use of the addictive drug by children doubles in a year."

    Doubles? Now that was odd, because the press release for this government survey said it found "almost no change in patterns of drug use, drinking or smoking since 2000". But the Telegraph ran with the story as well. So did the Mirror. Perhaps they had found the news themselves, buried in the report.

    So I got the document. It's a survey of 9,000 children, aged 11 to 15, in 305 schools. The three-page summary said, again, there was no change in prevalence of drug use. I found the data tables, and for the question about using cocaine in the past year, 1% said yes in 2004, and 2% said yes in 2005. Except almost all the figures were 1%, or 2%. They'd all been rounded off. By asking around, I found that the actual figures were 1.4% for 2004 and 1.9% for 2005, not 1% and 2%. So it hadn't doubled. But if that alone was my story, this would be a pretty lame column, so read on.

    What we now have is an increase of 0.5%: out of 9,000 kids, about 45 more kids saying "yes" to the question. Presented with a small increase like this, you have to think: is it statistically significant? Well, I did the maths, and the answer is yes, it is, in that you get a p-value of less than 0.05. What does that mean? Well, sometimes you might throw "heads" five times in a row, just by chance. Let's imagine that there was definitely no difference in cocaine use, the odds were even, but you took the same survey 100 times: you might get a difference like we have seen here just by chance, but less than five times out of your 100 surveys.

    But this is an isolated figure. To "data mine", and take it out of its real world context, and say it is significant, is misleading. The statistical test for significance assumes that every data point, every child, is independent. But, of course, here the data is "clustered". They are not data, they are real children, in 305 schools. They hang out together, they copy each other, they buy drugs off each other, there are crazes, epidemics, group interactions.

    The increase of 45 kids taking cocaine could have been three major epidemics of cocaine use in three schools, or mini-epidemics in a handful of schools. This makes our result less significant. The small increase of 0.5% was only significant because it came from a large sample of 9,000 data points - like 9,000 tosses of a coin - but if they're not independent data points, then you have to treat it, in some respects, like a smaller sample, and so the results become less significant. As statisticians would say, you must "correct for clustering".

    Then there is a final problem with the data. In the report, there are dozens of data points reported: on solvents, smoking, ketamine, cannabis, and so on. Standard practice in research is to say we only accept a finding as significant if it has a p-value of 0.05 or less. But like we said, a p-value of 0.05 means that for every 100 comparisons you do, five will be positive by chance alone. From this report you could have done dozens of comparisons, and some of them would indeed have been positive, but by chance alone, and the cocaine figure could be one of those. This is why statisticians do a "correction for multiple comparisons", which is particularly brutal on the data, and often reduces the significance of findings dramatically, just like correcting for clustering can.

    Mining is a dangerous profession - and data mining is just the same. This story went from an increase of 0.5%, that might be a gradual trend, but could well be an entirely chance finding, to being a front page story in the Times about cocaine use doubling. You might not trust the press release, but if you don't know your science, you take a big chance when you delve under the bonnet of a study to find a story.
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