Almost one child a week was rushed to hospital in Tayside after taking illegal drugs in the past year, the Tele can reveal.
Figures from NHS Tayside show the number of under-16s admitted to accident and emergency departments because of the effects of drugs is at a five-year high.
There were 46 children treated at Ninewell’s A&E or the Murray Royal Hospital between November 2016 and October 2017 — up from 44 during the previous period and 27 the year before.
A spokesman for NHS Tayside said “early intervention” was key to tackling the problem.
North East region Scottish Conservative MSP Bill Bowman said he “fully agreed” about the importance of early intervention but said funding cuts to alcohol and drug partnerships (ADPs) was an issue.
He added: “The scale of the growing drug problem in Tayside is impossible to ignore, particularly over the last two years.
“In 2016, the Scottish Government cut its funding for ADPs by 22% and did not restore that money this year. This represented hundreds of thousands of pounds from each health board area.
“The reduction in funding has come at a high cost for local anti-drug abuse efforts, whether that is working with vulnerable families in which children are growing up around drugs, or working with schools to drive home the dangers of chaotic lifestyles.”
An NHS Tayside spokeswoman said: “Substance misuse is a major public health issue at national level and remains a priority for NHS Tayside.
“We see patients admitted to our emergency department’s ward due to illegal drug use and, unfortunately, people can die after arriving at hospital due to the level of toxicity from the substance they have taken.
“There is no safe way to take drugs recreationally and the only way to ensure that you don’t come to harm from drugs is not to use them.
“There is huge variation in the strength and content of drugs sold illegally as it is an unregulated industry.
“Even if you have taken a particular drug before with no major ill-effects, that does not mean you will have the same response the next time you take it.
“Early intervention is important to tackle the circumstances that lead to substance use, alongside the provision of coordinated, holistic health and social care to address the multiple needs of those at highest risk of drug-related injury or death.”