Drug abuse soars as nation struggles to cope with austerity - The Times
23 Jul 2012
The bleak economic outlook and welfare cuts have been blamed for Scotland’s position as the drug abuse capital of Europe.
A new survey has revealed soaring levels of Ecstasy use in Scotland, where the drug is abused at more than double the level seen in most other countries, and the highest level of LSD abuse in Europe.
The statistics compiled by the European Monitoring Centre for Drug and Drug Addiction show that 9.3 per cent of people between the ages of 16-59 have taken Ecstasy, which is undergoing a huge resurgence after years in decline.
Scotland also has the third highest cocaine problem in Europe, with 8.4 per cent of the population having used the class A drug. More than a quarter of the population has smoked cannabis.
Sean McCollum, head of operations for the Scottish Drugs Forum, said: “The high rates of drug use highlighted by the report comes as no surprise. Last year, we said that poverty was probably the biggest component in Scotland’s drugs problem and the current economic climate has put an even greater spotlight on the link between drug use and poverty.
“Recent and proposed changes to the welfare system will exacerbate this and these UK government policies have the potential to undermine the Scottish government’s strategy to address problematic drug use.”
John Arthur, of Crew 2000, an addiction charity, said: “We were expecting a rise because of the recession, but it seems that rather than more people using, it’s a case of people who are already using are now taking more.”
Ecstasy has been linked to at least three deaths in Scotland in the past two years. Police seizures of the drug increased by 60 per cent last year.
The Scottish Crime and Drugs Enforcement Agency said that of the 157.7kg of Class A drugs seized last year, almost 100kg were Ecstasy tablets.
Gordon Meldrum, director general of the agency, said: “We have seized the largest amount of Ecstasy seen in Scotland for many years . . . indicating a direct shift in the product of choice for serious organised crime groups.”Police have also warned of a renaissance of cannabis in Scotland as criminal gangs flood the market with the class B drug, which is often smoked by middle-class professionals.
In the past year drug enforcement officers have seized £200,000 worth of the drug from a gang operating in Fife and dozens of plants with a street value of £180,000 from a flat in Kilmarnock.
Chinese gangs who were traditionally involved in cannabis growing in Scotland were targeted in a police crackdown and have largely been driven out. However, Scottish gangs who have moved into the trade are proving harder to detect because they are using small sites to grow the plants.
Anne Franc, an expert on cannabis cultivation at Forensic Equity, a company that specialises in forensic services for the police and court system, said: “The profits are substantial, it’s easy to grow and there’s huge demand. Unlike Class A drugs, cannabis use crosses the social boundaries. It’s as popular among the middle classes as it is among those on lower incomes.”