Parents' drug danger for toddler

A toddler needed life-saving hospital treatment after drinking a heroin-substitute that his parents stored in his beaker.

A toddler needed life-saving hospital treatment after drinking a heroin-substitute that his parents stored in his beaker.

The two-year-old, who is now in the care of Norfolk County Council, consumed the class A drug methadone after finding it stored on a shelf at his parents' home in Colman Road, Norwich.

Gemma Easter, 22, and Darren Harcourt, 30, pleaded guilty to child cruelty when they appeared at Norwich Crown Court.

Child protection campaigners said the case highlighted the serious effect drug and alcohol abuse by parents can have on their children. Methadone can be fatal to adults if administered incorrectly and small doses have been known to be deadly in paediatric cases.

At an earlier hearing, the court heard the house had been littered with syringes. The methadone - which is used to wean addicts off heroin and is illegal except under prescription - had been decanted into the child's cup from a supply stored in the couple's fridge.

The drug had been left in the house by a friend and transferred to the beaker for “safe-keeping”.

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On June 1 the boy climbed on the sofa to reach his beaker and became seriously ill after drinking from it. He was rushed to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital for emergency treatment.

Since the offence he has been in the care of social services which is monitoring Easter and Harcourt. The court heard Harcourt is currently receiving drug rehabilitation treatment. The case was adjourned for pre-sentence reports.

An NSPCC spokeswoman said the society could not comment on the specific case as it was not involved in the prosecution. But she said it was just one example of the impact a parent's drug abuse can have on their children.

“We advise any parent who feels their ability to care for their children is affected by drug or alcohol abuse, should see a doctor as soon as possible,” she added.

“Your doctor will be able to provide support and counselling at the surgery, or can make a referral to other professionals who specialise in drug and alcohol problems.

“If you need extra help in caring for your children, the health visitor can often arrange this. The important thing is that you get help as soon as possible.”

If you are concerned about a child who may be at risk, call the NSPCC's 24-hour Child Protection Helpline on 0808 800 5000.