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Tuesday, 4 April, 2000, 10:06 GMT 11:06 UK
'15-year-olds use heroin'
Heroin use
Heroin use costs 8,000 a year
Teenagers as young as 15 are experimenting with the highly-addictive drug heroin, a survey suggests.

The findings suggest use of the drug is starting two years earlier than during a wave of heroin use in the 1980s.

It is particularly worrying that many of the youngsters interviewed had no idea of the potency of heroin before they tried it

Roger Howard, DrugScope
And charity DrugScope, which carried out the survey, says addicts spend 8,000 a year on their habit - with most of the money coming from state benefits or crime.

The pattern of use uncovered by the charity show that teenagers begin by trying heroin with friends and at first it is smoked.

It is soon tried again and use quickly becomes weekly and then daily.

Three-quarters of the 86 youngsters aged between 15 and 20 who spoke to the charity about their drug use had also tried crack cocaine.

In 1997, 491 men died as a result of drug dependence in England and Wales compared to 245 in 1993.

Drug use began for most of the youngsters, who came from a small city and three small towns, at around the age of 13 when they were routinely out at night unsupervised.

The survey also found that 99% of the heroin users had tried cannabis, 92% amphetamines, 83% LSD, 82% tranquillisers and 81% the heroin substitute methadone.


Many of the young people said they had been naive and ill-informed about heroin and many expressed regret at having started.

More than half (55%) said they could get heroin whenever they wanted 24 hours a day.

While benefits and crime, mainly shoplifting, were the main ways of paying for drugs, dealing, begging and prostitution were other forms of income.

Chief executive of DrugScope Roger Howard said: "This extremely important study provides us with a crucial insight into the world of teenage heroin users, many of whom are shockingly young.

"It is particularly worrying that many of the youngsters interviewed had no idea of the potency of heroin before they tried it, and that three-quarters of them have already used crack cocaine.

He said greater communication with young people on the dangers of heroin was needed.

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