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Last Updated: Friday, 14 October 2005, 16:10 GMT 17:10 UK
Drugs fears for rural youngsters
By Steve Brocklehurst
BBC News

Ewan McGregor in the film Trainspotting about Edinburgh drug addicts
Trainspotting showed one side of Scottish drug culture
Trainspotting, the Irvine Welsh novel and film set in Edinburgh, has provided an image of drug abuse in Scotland for more than a decade.

However, problem drug use in Scotland is far from limited to centres of urban deprivation.

Support workers in largely rural Dumfries and Galloway are concerned about addiction rates higher than those in Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

They are especially worried about the number of youngsters becoming addicted to heroin and other class A drugs.

Peer pressure

Mike McClurg, chair of Alcohol and Drug Support South West Scotland, said: "For a rural area this is a major drugs problem, especially among young users."

The main motorway into Scotland from England runs through Dumfries and Galloway and the ferry from Northern Ireland lands at Stranraer, meaning anyone transporting drugs through Scotland is likely to cross the region.

Mr McClurg said: "These drugs are available in every village. If one person starts using, the peer pressure is enormous."

I was trying to be one of the boys... experimenting with speed, ecstasy, Valium, anything I could get
Drug addict

Research carried out last year showed that 52% of those with a drug problem in the area were aged between 15 and 19 when their addiction began.

This compares with 38% in the Greater Glasgow health board area.

The research also showed that first exposure to drugs was usually from a friend and the most likely venue was a friend's house or a party.


Ricky, a 30-year-old addict from Dumfries, said he had been taking drugs since he was 12.

His mother encouraged him to join her smoking cannabis in order to divert him from sniffing gas.

"That just led on to other things," Ricky said.

"Everyone was doing it. I was trying to be one of the boys. I was just experimenting with speed, ecstasy, Valium, anything I could get. I was young and stupid."

"Half of it is boredom. People have nothing to do."

Smoking heroin
Scottish heroin users tend to inject rather than smoke the drug
Ricky said getting hold of the drugs was easy and there were large numbers of people on his housing estate who were addicted.

He was an heroin addict for eight years but decided to get treatment last year after the death of his mother.

Despite using drugs from the age of 12, he did not get into heroin until he was in his 20s.

Ricky said young people these days were not as scared of heroin as they were 10 or 15 years ago.

"They don't care. They turn to injecting much quicker. They inject instead of smoking. It is safer to smoke but they think it is a waste. With smoking you are feeding the birds. It goes up into the air whereas with injecting you get everything."

Glasgow suffers most

Recent estimates put the number of drug addicts in Dumfries and Galloway at more than 1,800.

Researchers from the Centre for Drugs Misuse Research (CDMR) at Glasgow University found that the prevalence of misuse in the area had risen significantly between 2000 and 2003.

The prevalence figure, which is expressed as a percentage of those aged between 15 and 54 who use problem drugs (mainly heroin), had risen from 1.6% to 2.43%, a rate higher than both Edinburgh (2.10%) and Aberdeen (2.03%).

Glasgow City has the worst addiction problems (3.31%), with Dundee (2.8%) and Inverclyde (2.57%) also suffering.

Dumfries and Galloway's prevalence figure of 2.43% is much higher than other predominantly rural areas of Scotland such as Aberdeenshire (1.0%), Angus (1.99%) and Moray (0.66%).

The figure for the Highlands is also low at 0.81%.

Dougie Montgomery, substance misuse co-ordinator for NHS Highland, said that research had shown that the prevalence of drug addiction in the Highlands had dropped but the number of people accessing treatment and support services had increased.

Cocaine foothold

He also said that they were beginning to see an increase in young people being identified as drug addicts.

Mr Montgomery said that there had always been pockets of drugs misuse in the islands.

Alness, Invergordon and Nairn, former industrial towns which had close connections with Glasgow, have all got a well-established drugs network.

However, he said that anecdotal evidence pointed to problem drug use spreading to more remote areas such as Skye, Fort William and Caithness.

Heroin is the main problem but there was also evidence of an increase in cocaine use.

He said people would get drugs from friends and contacts who had made a trip to a major population centre such as Inverness.

The following comments are a balance of the opinions we have received:

I come originally from a small rural village on the Moray coast and I can assure you that drugs in any form are not only a city problem - with being near the coast it is cheap and easy to get any kind of drug you could want - cannabis is usually grown locally but everything else from pills to cocaine is easilly got hold of if you know the right people (and even if you don't it's easy to find someone who does thanks to the small community). More needs to be done to educate young people but also the police and community members who may be naive about what is going on.
Rach, England (Scottish born)

After losing an older brother and an older sister to this evil drug I disagree that it is because there is nothing to do. Both my siblings led active lives - my brother played football and my sister ran various youth groups. Both my siblings I believe were easily influenced by friends who in the long run led to their lives being shortened.
James Duff, UK

I do believe that some youths do drugs not only because of peer pressure and boredom, but because some feel that their peers or people they care about (family) don't care. They see it as a way out of their personal problems whether it be social or at home. I think the adults and other youths in the community should reach out to those who are addicted and let them know that they do care. Because telling them the dangers of doing drugs isn't going to stop them: its easier said than done. It takes ACTION.
Maria Mitchell, USA

I come from a rural village and can confirm that this has been going on for years.
Laura, Scotland

I can confirm what Laura says. This isn't a new problem. I am 28, but when I was a teenager on Scottish island with around 5000 people there was a severe drug problem. Drugs are a problem pretty much anywhere, but the bulk of support for addicts is in urban areas. That's the real problem.
Anon, Scotland

Another graphic example of the failure of prohibition. The government has the power to more than halve crime, eradicate overdoses, and cut the funding of organised crime, in one stroke. Legalise.
Reverend Paul Farnhill, UK

Whether it is legal or illegal kids are going to use drugs. Those fortunate enough to grow up in an upper income area are able to kick their habbit faster through support groups, good doctors, access to medicine and rehab services. It should be no suprise that kids in low income, rural Scotland are having the same kind of drug problem common in most inner cities.
Ryan B, USA

I think we need to tackle the issue of where the drugs are coming from. For example destroying the poppy fields in Afghanistan. Also we need to be tighter with our borders not only for drugs but terrorism and people trafficking
Andy C, Scotland

I can also confirm that it has been going on for a long time. I am 30, by the time I was 16 I had tried most drugs and this was living in a village in Fife. Boredom definitely played a part, peer pressure was another,to be honest at the time I enjoyed the buzz of doing someting illegal as well. By the time I was 21 I had tried everything, I had lost 2 friends to heroin and saw a lot more going down the same road. Really the truth is that as a society we have lost out values. We have become a selfish, materialistic and uncompassionate society.
Jaya Gibson, Scotland

I don't know what is it is, but Scottish young people have this tendancy to be "easily led". If they only could say NO! to their mates when it comes to drug misuse, mayby it wouldn't be such a problem. When I was at school, my mates tried to get me smoking, I immediately told them where to go. I've never smoked in my life and my same friends are still trying to give it up, with 100% encouragement on my part!
Evie G, Scotland

My entire family lives in Scotland, and one brothers two kids have both been users of drugs for years. The girl had, had an abortion by 16, been in jail and constantly stole from her own grandmother, then rehab and is now clean (we hope), and the boy is now sitting in jail in Edinburgh. Both were doing it because of a bad upbringing, low self esteem, peer pressure and absent parents. It started because their home life was poor, the kids were neglected and it made them feel good. But access to drugs is readily available to anyone who simply goes to the pub and asks someone where to score. It's everywhere, all over the world.
Steve, USA

I totally aggree with Laura and Rach.. It was harder to get drugs where i use to live (Bath) to where im living now, a small rural Welsh villiage.
Anon, Wales

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