‘Trainspotting generation’ blamed for rise in drug admissions

Twenty years of drug abuse takes its toll on addicts. Picture: Wavebreak
Twenty years of drug abuse takes its toll on addicts. Picture: Wavebreak
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A RISE in drug-related hospital admissions and illnesses caused by long-term addiction has been blamed on Scotland’s “Trainspotting generation” of users who took up drinking and drugs in the 1980s.

The number of hospital stays linked to “opioids” such as methadone and heroin, has risen fivefold since 1996/97, official figures revealed yesterday.

These are worrying figures which show just how big a problem addiction to drugs remains”


Drug-related hospitalisations remained steady amongst under-25s, but there was a significant rise among older users, with an elevenfold increase in admissions of those aged 40 to 44 years old.

This rose to a fifteenfold increase amongst 45 to 49-year-olds, while admissions of those aged 50-54 have increased by a factor of 12.

David Liddell, director of the Scottish Drugs Forum, said: “The figures reinforce the trend over many years showing an increase in people with a drug problem in the older generation.

“Of the 613 drug-related deaths in the most recent figures, around 400 of them were over 35. Part of the problem will be 40-year-olds who have used drugs for 20 years or more and have the health of people in the general population in their 60s.

“I hesitate to use the phrase ‘Trainspotting generation’, but that is a phrase we have used to describe those who started using in the 1980s or early ’90s.

“There was obviously a big explosion in heroin use in the early ’80s, which spread from major urban centres to more rural areas, which is contributing to the age profiles that we are seeing today.”

The link between deprivation and drug misuse is becoming more stark, as half of drug-related admissions now come from the 20 per cent most deprived areas.

Alcohol-related psychoses, including hallucinations and delusions, have almost overtaken liver disease as the most common cause of chronic hospital admissions linked to long-term alcohol abuse.

Admissions have been rising steadily from around 50 per 100,000 people in 1997/98 to around 120 in 2014/15, almost the same as for alcoholic liver disease.

General harmful use of alcohol remains the most common cause of acute hospital admissions, at 10,461 stays in 2014/15, equating to a rate of 202.1 stays per 100,000.

While psychoses have been rising steadily, harmful use had been on the wane from a peak of around 280 admissions per 100,000 in 2007/08 to fewer than 200 in 2012/13, but there has been a slight increase since then.

Alcoholic liver disease is also on the rise again following a slight drop. Scotland’s drink and drugs habits are placing the NHS under “enormous strain”, warned Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume MSP.

He said: “We know that this has been a real problem for years, but we are still seeing increases in admissions relating to alcohol and drug misuse.

“These problems affect people of all ages and all backgrounds, especially those living in the most deprived areas in Scotland.

“We need a comprehensive strategy to tackle alcohol and drug misuse.”

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “These are very worrying figures which show just how big a problem addiction to drugs and alcohol remains in Scotland and the consequences for our NHS, from the pressure at A&E to the chronic illnesses which can follow with longer-term hospital treatment.

“It’s clear Scotland’s NHS and everyone in it is doing all they can.

“However, if we are to avoid an ever-deteriorating position and the consequences of this for individuals and healthcare more generally, then we have to make real progress in changing attitudes and far more fundamentally than we have managed to date.”

Public health minister Maureen Watt defended the government’s record on drug and alcohol abuse but admitted the figures were too high.

She said: “The latest figures for alcohol-related hospital stays show a decrease from last year and this continues decreases since 2007-08.

“However, the latest rate is still more than four times higher than in the early 1980s, so there is still more work to be done. Recent statistics show that alcohol-related deaths have increased by 5 per cent in the last year, following a 2 per cent rise the previous year.

“Alcohol misuse is not a marginal problem or restricted to one particular sector of society.

“Excessive daily and weekly consumption is common across different age and socio-economic groups.”