Page last updated at 00:48 GMT, Thursday, 4 December 2008

Adverts warn of cocaine dangers


Pablo the drug mule dog in anti-drug ad

A hard-hitting 1m television and internet advertising campaign to warn teenagers of the dangers of cocaine use is being launched by the government.

The adverts feature a fictional dog called Pablo, who is used as a "mule" to carry cocaine by drug dealers.

The dog seeks out coke users to find out what happens to them and in one advert, watches a young woman have a heart attack.

The UK has recorded the highest number of cocaine users in the EU.

Despite an overall decrease in drug use, cocaine use has remained stable amongst 16-24 year olds at 5%.

The new campaign, run by the national drugs information service FRANK, is specifically aimed at the 15-18 age group.

FRANK spokesman Dr Ken Checinski said: "Cocaine is psychologically more addictive than many other substances, such as alcohol and cannabis, and can easily become a habit that controls your life.

High doses can raise the body's temperature, cause convulsions and respiratory or heart failure
Highly risky for anybody with high blood pressure or a heart condition. Perfectly healthy, young people can have a fit or heart attack after taking too much coke and you may not know you've got a pre-existing heart condition
Heavy use can cause depression and serious problems with anxiety and paranoia
Can bring previous mental health problems to the surface
Alcohol and cocaine together can be particularly dangerous as the substances interact in the body to produce a toxic chemical

"It's also cut with various toxic ingredients such as phenacetin and benzocaine and is known to put extreme pressure on the heart, putting the user at serious risk of a heart attack - no matter what their age."

Sarah Graham, an addictions therapist, said: "Some young people may perceive cocaine to be a harmless party drug but they don't realise the destruction it causes.

"Users can suffer serious harm to their mental and physical health, while the cocaine supply chain also harms people and the environment."

Home Office Minister Alan Campbell said the adverts were designed to emphasise that the harm caused by cocaine could be wide-ranging.

He said: "Taking cocaine can have serious consequences, legally and socially, as well as from a health and environmental point of view.

"While cocaine use among young people has remained stable and the number of seizures of the drug has increased by more than a third, we want young people thinking about using cocaine to be aware of the damage it causes to themselves, their families, the wider community and the environment."

The first-showing of the advert will be on Channel 4 at 2215 GMT on 4 December.

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