A shocking Sunday Times report has revealed that the British Government's drugs helpline is telling children that cannabis is safer than alcohol, and its ecstasy won't harm their health.
The advice, given to reporters who rang the helpline posing as young people, has alarmed anti-drugs campaigners.
In one call, where the reporter claimed to be the friend of a 13-year-old boy who had started smoking cannabis, the adviser said: "He won't get addicted, no. It's not as dangerous as alcohol. Because that's the truth in terms of the power of the drug."
He went on to say that if alcohol was illegal, it would be a class A drug, the most harmful category, whereas "cannabis should just be a class C drug".
Another adviser even encouraged a caller to take pot by saying that "go and take Es, you're absolutely fine. It's not going to affect your health. A good idea is if you don't know what it is you are taking, take a half a one and see how you go and if you are handling that OK, you can take the other half."
Health experts have condemned the advice given to children as "frankly appalling", "factually incorrect" and "worryingly cavalier".
"Any drug use while the brain is still developing may lead to structural or functional changes. The heavy cannabis users show clear structural abnormalities of the brain in areas that control memory, attention, decision-making and language skills," Dr. Zerrin Atakan, consultant psychiatrist at the Institute of Psychiatry, said.
The anti-drug campaigners have termed the funded "Frank" helpline as "scandalous."
"It is scandalous. These people are talking to kids, for goodness sake. Taking drugs can trigger all kinds of psychosis in people that have a genetic predisposition to it. Why are they not told that," Talking About Cannabis charity spokesperson Mary Brett said.
After being presented with the findings, the Government said it had launched an immediate investigation into the Frank service.
"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," a Government spokesman said.