Bad news for Scotland as it tops chart for drugs misuse


By Christine Lavelle

A NEW study has revealed Scotland has some of the worst drug abuse rates than anywhere else in the world – and it keeps getting worse.

An international survey, by the UN, includes results from 200 countries, and shows more people per head use heroin, ecstasy and cocaine in this country than almost every other.

Shocking figures demonstrate that almost four per cent of the population is regularly using the class A drug cocaine, which is the highest recorded anywhere.

Around 1.5 per cent of Scots adults inject or smoke opiates – almost three times the world’s average.

Narcotics experts have blamed ministers for not making clear policies on the issue, and they even claim that the Scottish Government’s failure to tackle the misuse of these drugs could be deterring businesses from setting up shop in the country.

Only five nations – including Afghanistan where the majority of heroin is cultivated – recorded higher levels of abuse than here, the others are Iran, Costa Rica, Russia and Mauritius.

Scotland’s ecstasy problem is a third higher than in England and Wales, as 2.5 per cent of our population has the habit, showing almost a 50 per cent jump in the last six years.

No other nation has such a consistent track record for topping separate drug use tables.

Professor Graeme Pearson, former head of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, accuseNSL, slammed the government for not tackling the problem head-on.

He said: “Education, diversion and treatment activities to reduce the problem has been largely missing over the last three years.

“If you have a successful drugs strategy the number of problematic drug users will fall but there’s no evidence to suggest that is happening.”

He said it could have implications on Scotland’s ability to attract entrepreneurs.

He said: “If you have millions of pounds to invest do you choose an area with a growing drug problem and take a risk in terms of whether the workforce is going to deliver, or do you set up somewhere where drug abuse is falling?

“The answer is obvious.”

Research shows users spend £1.4 billion a year to feed their habit, and it is estimated that there are now around 50,000 heroin and 750,000 cocaine users across Scotland.

The nation also tops the European table for the highest level of drug related deaths, and when costs related to the NHS, criminal justice system and social care are considered, the bill totals almost £3.5 billion.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We’re investing a record £28.6 million in 2010/11 for front line drug treatment services, a 20 per cent increase on 2006/07.”