CHILDREN as young as 11 have been referred to drug and alcohol treatment services in Lancashire, according to ‘shock’ new figures.

Charities have called for improved drugs education in schools after national figures showed 366 children aged 12 or under were referred to specialists in 2012/13, with more than half receiving treatment for cannabis misuse.

Although this figure was not broken down for each council area, separate data showed there were 275 under 18s from Lancashire that required help for drug or alcohol problems, compared to 257 in the previous year.

Andrew Brown, director of programmes at the Mentor UK charity, said: “We think it is vital that alcohol and drug education improve.

“Our own survey of teachers suggests at the moment delivery is inconsistent, and that the norm is to timetable only one or two sessions a year.

“This may sound sufficient, but evidence would suggest that longer programmes that systematically build skills and values are much more likely to prevent young people from coming to harm than one-off lessons.”

The figures from Blackburn with Darwen Council appeared to have been collected in a different way from those at Lancashire County Council. There were just 14 referrals in 2012/13, up from 12 the previous year, with the youngest aged 12.

Earlier this month, one of the Government’s official drug advisers called for drugs education to be broadened.

A new national curriculum being introduced in September says pupils in Year 6 at primary school – those aged 10 and 11 – must be taught to ‘recognise the impact of diet, exercise and drugs and lifestyle on the way their bodies function’.

Although Personal Social, Health & Economic education (PSHE) lessons remain non-compulsory, the Department for Education recommends schools use them to expand the knowledge pupils get in science lessons.

A Government spokeswoman said: “Both the old and the new curriculum are clear that all pupils should be taught about how drugs and other substances can be harmful to the human body.

“Teachers are also free to use their professional judgment.”