Drugs advice helpline to be investigated after teenagers were told to use cannabis

April 20th, 2009 by admin

drughotline

Ministers launched an investigation yesterday into the Government’s drugs advice hotline after teenage callers were told to use drugs.

Advisers at the FRANK helpline condoned cannabis smoking by a 13-year-old, and it was suggested to a 15-year- old who said she had experimented with ecstasy that she could go on taking it.

Young teenagers were told alcohol is more dangerous than cannabis and one worried caller was repeatedly counselled not to tell the parents of a cannabis smoker about his drug use.

The £6.5million-a-year FRANK service has for six years been one of the Home Office’s main weapons for alleviating the damage drugs can do to the young.

Advice given by supposed experts manning the organisation’s 42-hour helpline criticised government drugs policy and encouraged youngsters to break the law.

A spokesman for the Home Office, which runs the FRANK operation in tandem with the Department of Health and the Department for Children, Schools and Families, said: ‘It is completely unacceptable for a FRANK adviser to be giving out wrong, misleading and inaccurate information.

‘We are urgently looking into the matter and will identify the person or persons involved and take action.’

She added: ‘FRANK is an important resource for young people who need help and advice about drugs.’

The service has been controversial since its launch in 2003. Designed to communicate the dangers of drugs to the young in their own language, it has been regularly attacked by critics who say it takes a liberal line and downplays dangers.

Its website, for example, suggests cannabis carries mental health risks only for those with an existing history of these problems.

But a series of calls to its helpline by newspaper reporters posing as teenagers found some of FRANK’s 75 advisers actively encouraging drug use.

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