Drug use increases across schools in Essex

The number of drug offences of possession of cannabis and hard controlled drugs like heroin, cocaine and ecstasy in schools and colleges across Essex have risen in the last few years, according to new insight by leading drug addiction experts UKAT.

As part of a recent Freedom of Information Request, UKAT asked Essex Police for the number of offences for the possession of cannabis, possession of other controlled drugs and drug trafficking recorded in schools and colleges across their patch.

The results show that drug offences for cannabis possession have almost tripled in just four years; from 15 in 2015 to 41 in 2019.

Data was also provided separately for universities in Essex, revealing the number of cannabis possession offences committed rose from just three in 2015 to 20 in 2019.

The data shows a concerning uplift in the number of offences of possession of controlled drugs like heroin, cocaine and ecstasy, rising from two offences in schools, colleges and universities in 2015 to six offences in 2019.

The investigation has been the catalyst for the launch of the UKAT Addiction Education Programme – a completely free, interactive workshop led by a drug and alcohol specialist, on site in schools and colleges to educate and engage with pupils on the dangers of substance misuse and peer pressure.

Part of the workshop explores the risks that come with smuggling drugs, something that is proven to be happening more and more in schools across Essex.

UKAT’s data shows that offences in the trafficking of controlled drugs in schools and colleges have tripled in just four years, and have risen from 0 offences in 2015 in universities to four in 2019.

Nuno Albuquerque, treatment lead at UKAT, said: “Our investigation has unearthed every parent’s worst nightmare; that some children are exposed to and involved in drugs whilst at school; a place they thought they’d be safe at.

“It’s important to stress the power of preventative action and interactive education when it comes to substances, but schools have lost vital, on-site support roles through welfare budget cuts. Now, not only are they expected to teach, but to wear multiple hats and spin multiple plates in order to keep the pupils safe. This approach is unstainable and unfair.

“That’s why our free addiction awareness programme has launched; to take this burden from the teachers and to place it in the hands of our addiction experts.

“We are so passionate about working with schools across Essex to collaborate and prevent children and young adults from developing life-changing problems with drugs and alcohol. Together, we can make a real difference.”

It’s not just UKAT’s investigation which justifies the need for schools to take greater proactive action when it comes to tackling substance misuse on their premises.

Latest data from NHS England shows that a staggering 38 per cent of pupils aged 11 to 15 years old across the country were offered drugs in 2018.

Furthermore, in that year 19 per cent of 15-year-olds used drugs and 29 per cent of 15-year-olds who were offered Class A drugs took them.

Mr Albuquerque added: “Misusing drugs and alcohol as a child can cause significant short and long term life and health problems. The child could become physically and psychologically dependent on the substance, which more often than not, leads to taking ‘harder’ substances or consuming more alcohol in order to feel any effect.

“Because of their substance use, the child could miss out on their education, resulting in a lack of employability. They could then turn to crime to fund their lifestyle and to ‘fit in’ with others around them. Taking proactive, preventative measures will go a long way to ensuring this doesn’t happen to the children at schools across Essex.”

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter