ALMOST one in four Scots have admitted to taking illegal drugs at some point in their lives, figures in a newly published crime survey have revealed.
A total of 23.7 per cent adults interviewed said they had taken at least one illicit drug, with cannabis the most popular banned substance used by the 11,000 Scottish survey respondents aged over 16.
More than 10 per cent of those admitting to using drug use said they had taken class A substances including cocaine and crack, according to yesterday’s Scottish crime and justice survey (SCJS).
Party drugs such as amphetamines, also known as speed, and ecstasy were the drugs of choice for more than 7 per cent of those surveyed.
Senior Labour MSP Graeme Pearson, former director of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, issued a stark warning that a growing number of people are taking drugs and said there was “no evidence” that the problem was becoming any less widespread.
However, Scotland’s Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham said that the SNP administration had spent millions of pounds on addiction prevention and referred to figures that showed illicit drug use by those surveyed had dropped from 7.6 per cent in 2008-9 to 6.6 per cent in 2010-11.
She said: “Since 2007-8 we have directly invested £5.43 million in our ambitious substance misuse prevention programme, supporting activities including know the score and choices for life,the interactive alcohol, drugs and tobacco education programme which over 200,000 schoolchildren have engaged with since 2007-08.
“Another important factor is the concerted efforts of law enforcement agencies across Scotland to disrupt the supply of drugs into our communities.”
The survey showed that around three in ten Scottish men – 29.1 per cent – admitted to taking illegal drugs at some point in their lives compared to two in ten women –18.7 per cent.
Senior Scottish Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone claimed that the survey revealed a “deep seated” problem with drug use among Scots.
He said: “The figure of one in four Scots admitting to drug use is horrifying and indicates just how deep seated the problem of drug taking is in Scotland.
“We need the Scottish Government to take the issue much more seriously and to deliver on its many previous promises to steer people away from drug dependency.
“The priority for funding to reduce drug abuse should be allocating funds for rehabilitation centres to try to end drug dependency rather than a reliance on methadone.”
The head of a Scottish anti-drugs charity warned that drugs abuse could increase amid high levels of unemployment and poverty.
David Liddell, director of the Scottish Drugs Forum, said: “The one in four figure is not surprising as we’re talking about something over the course of a person’s whole life.
“But there’s a real concern about vulnerable parts of the population that could be at risk with high levels of social deprivation and youth unemployment.”
Labour MSP Mr Pearson called on the Scottish Government to “reassess” its policies on health, education and policing to tackle substance abuse, as he claimed there were 55,000 problem drug users in the country.
He said: “Given the Scottish government’s drugs strategy, you would have to say that the one in four figure is disappointing and that we should be worried.
“Many people become involved very casually and we can only hope that these figures reflect that experience. But at the same time some individuals being casually involved in drugs can lead to them being sucked into a life that destroys their entire future. “There’s no evidence that the situation is improving and we need to reassess the government’s strategy, as we have around 55,000 problematic drug abusers in Scotland.”
“If health, eduction and policing are all delivering then we should see a decline in that.”
However, Scotland’s Community Minister insisted that a fall in the proportion of adults taking drugs in the last month of each year dropped from 4.4 per cent to 3.5 per cent showed that the government’s anti-drugs strategy was working.
Ms Cunningham said: “This Government is working hard to tackle Scotland’s legacy of drugs misuse and these figures show that we are firmly moving in the right direction.
“I believe a better general understanding of the risks associated with taking drugs is contributing to the fall.
“Another important factor is the concerted efforts of law enforcement agencies across Scotland to disrupt the supply of drugs into our communities. However, enforcement alone will not tackle the demand for illicit drugs.
“Our national drugs strategy, The Road to Recovery, has been reinforced with investing record funding for drug treatment – an increase of over 20 per cent since 2006-7 – to ensure help is there for people who want it.”
SNP MSP Humza Yousaf said that Scotland was “moving in the right direction” in tackling drug use as he claimed the government had invested millions of pounds in treatment and eduction programmes.
He said: “Over £5m has been invested in the ambitious substance misuse prevention programme, including the interactive alcohol, drugs and tobacco education programme which over 200,000 schoolchildren have engaged with since 2007-8.”