SCOTLAND has been revealed as being top of the European league table for illegal drug abuse. Almost one in ten Scots have admitted using Ecstasy, more than double the rate in most other countries, according to statistics compiled by the European Monitoring Centre for Drug and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).
Its survey found 9.3 per cent of people aged 16-59 had taken Ecstasy, which is regaining its popularity in Scotland after years in decline.
Scotland also had the greatest proportion of LSD users (5.8 per cent), and the third highest cocaine problem (8.4 per cent), after England and Wales, and Sweden.
But although more than a quarter of people in Scotland have smoked cannabis, that was less than in Denmark, Italy, France and the Czech Republic, the report found.
The EMCDDA 21012 survey looked at illegal use of five drugs – Ecstasy, cocaine, LSD, cannabis and amphetamines – in 30 European countries in the 15-64 age group and found that, overall, drug use was more common across the board in the UK than on the continent.
Drug education experts believe the downturn and the rise in youth unemployment is fuelling the use of drugs by young people.
Ecstasy has been linked to at least three deaths in the past two years. Police fear more is being produced to meet growing demand in Scotland. Widespread acceptance of drug use is also stimulating demand for so-called “legal highs” – alternative chemical substances also linked to the recent deaths of music festival fans.
John Arthur, of drug education charity Crew 2000, said: “We were expecting a rise [in drug use] 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.”
The Scottish Crime and Drugs Enforcement Agency has recorded a dramatic increase in Ecstasy seizures, up 60 per cent in 2010-11. Of the 157.7kg of Class A drugs seized last year, almost 100kg was Ecstasy tablets.
Deputy Chief Constable Gordon Meldrum, director general of the SCDEA, said: “We have seized the largest amount of Ecstasy seen in Scotland for many years.
“The total quantity seized represents more than 60 per cent of our overall recovery of Class A drugs, indicating a direct shift in the product of choice for serious organised crime groups.
“Reducing the harm of illegal substances, and the demand for them, is crucial and a lot of police effort is dedicated to supporting this drive – particularly in the education and awareness of young people.”
Drugs experts believe Scotland’s problems with substance abuse will only get worse due to the bleak economic outlook and welfare cuts. Sean McCollum, head of operations for Scottish Drugs Forum said: “The high rates of drug use in Scotland 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.”