HUNDREDS of children – some as young as two – have been treated for drug and alcohol overdoses at hospital, figures reveal today.
The Courier has learned that 339 under- 15s have been admitted through A&E at Calderdale and Huddersfield hospitals in the last two years for drug overdoses.
Since January 2008, 55 two-year-olds and 30 three-year-olds were treated for drugs, medicine or biological substance overdoses.
The figures, obtained by the Courier under the Freedom of Information Act, also show 37 one-year-olds were treated.
The highest figure was 15-year-olds, where 87 were treated.
This was closely followed by 79 14-year-olds.
The figures also show 85 under-15s were admitted through A&E for the toxic effects of alcohol, solvents, pesticides, corrosive substances or carbon monoxide.
In this category, 13 two-year-olds were treated and 12 one-year-olds.
The highest figure was for 15-year-olds, with 20 treated over the past two years.
Dr Mark Davies, the trust’s clinical director, said the vast majority of the younger children swallowed prescribed drugs by accident.
“They’ve got hold of someone’s tablets or a bottle of Calpol.
“With the teenagers, it become more intentional - more misinformed rather than an accident - and on the whole it’s cannabis,” he said.
Treatment is keeping an eye on the teenagers or youngsters but in a minority it can have catastrophic consquences including death.
He said: “With drugs like ecstasy or MCAT, they can go from relatively well to suddenly dying very quickly.”
Depending on the drugs - or substances - young children have swallowed, side effects can include heart damage or increased blood pressure.
He urged families to keep pills locked in cupboards and contained in tablet boxes out of the grasp of children.
Kate Hetherington, team leader of the drug and alcohol service, Branching Out, which helps young people aged 10-21 said she was not surprised by the figures.
“We are aware that figures are quite high for young people for drugs and alcohol admissions to A&E.”
Through a joint-agency project, Branching Out plan to man a 24-hour helpline for hospital staff to phone if they treat a young person admitted for alcohol.
“It will be specifically for alcohol, but naturally drugs will be picked up on the back of that.
“Once that’s set up, hopefully over the next year we should see a decrease in these figures.”
To contact the Branching Out service phone 01422 510000.