Revealed: Drug users in Scotland spend £1.4bn every year to feed thir habits
SCOTLAND'S drug users are spending an astonishing £1.4BILLION a year to feed their habits.
And the drugs scourge leaves the nation with a £3.5billion annual bill.
The harrowing scale of the illegal drugs industry was revealed yesterday in a new Government report.
The numbers of users are staggering. Experts who researched drug use in 2006, the latest year where figures were available, found that 50,077 people in Scotland were taking heroin.
A total of 15,697 were hooked on crack cocaine and 18,019 were using "illicit" supplies of the heroin substitute methadone.
There were also 115,541 cocaine users, 70,182 users of amphetamines - or "speed" - and 102,418 people taking ecstasy.
A shocking 363,323 Scots were using cannabis. And 93,790 were illegally using tranquilisers such as diazepam and temazepam, known as "jellies" or "benzos".
Most of the users were classed as "recreational". But tens of thousands, including 40,000 people who took cannabis, were described as "problem users".
The report said heroin users took the drug on an average of 261 days in the year, consuming a total supply of nearly 11.5 tons.
Each user spent an average of £11,000, making the heroin market worth just less than £551million.
Users spent £268million on cannabis, £248million on cocaine, £182million on crack and £67million on ecstasy.
The total spent of drugs came to £1.4billion - a quarter of what Scotland spends on food in a year and more than eight times what we spend on whisky.
The report also measures the price of the drug problem for society. Drug users inflict massive burdens on the NHS, police and courts - and the ordinary people they rob to pay for their next fix.
The cost of drug use to the justice system in 2006 was put at £610.4million.
Users stole £120million of goods from people's homes and £50million worth from shops, as well as committing frauds worth nearly £190million.
The NHS paid £92.2million to keep users in hospital and more than 46,000 drug-takers visited accident and emergency at a cost of £9.8million.
It cost the health service £17.3million to treat users who have HIV or full-blown AIDS, many of whom used dirty needles. The total health cost of the drug problem was estimated at £180.5million.
Social services were also left with a massive bill. Social care, including the job of caring for addicts' kids, cost £112million.
The direct cost to the economy from drug users being unemployed was a colossal £819million.
But the most shocking figure of all was the "wider cost to society" - in lost and ruined lives and the misery inflicted on victims of drug crime. Experts put the total at £1.8billion.
A second report, published yesterday by Glasgow University, estimated that 55,238 Scots were hooked on heroin or tranquilisers in 2006 - nearly 4000 more than in 2003.
In total, almost two per cent of Scots aged 15 to 64 were addicted.
But in Glasgow, the figure was 3.27per cent. And it was 2.6per cent in Dundee and 2.57per cent in Inverclyde.
The university researchers found "significant" rises in heroin use in Glasgow, North and East Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire between 2003 and 2006.
And they warned that "nobody has a clear idea" of the number of users in touch with treatment services.
Reacting to the two reports, Scottish Drugs Forum director David Liddell said: "The figures confirm largely what we already know - that Scotland continues to have one of the highest rates of problematic drug use in Europe.
"They underline all too clearly why we must continue to invest in treatment, and focus that investment on the most effective range of treatment, care and rehabilitation services.
"That includes areas like housing, family support and employability.
"We must also continue to address the underlying issues of poverty, deprivation and other social and health inequalities.
"These issues are overwhelmingly at the root of Scotland's drug problem."
The figures sparked a political row, with Labour accusing the SNP government of not doing enough to fight the drug plague.
Community safety minister Fergus Ewing said the Government's drug strategy, including a cash boost for NHS treatment services, was making progress.
But he admitted: "It is unacceptable that some people are still having to wait months to get the help they seek."
Ewing added: "Dealing with Scotland's drugs problem is not straightforward.
"It involves a combination of education, prevention, treatment and enforcement - and a shared determination. But we are committed to turning round lives and helping deliver a safer, stronger Scotland."
Labour claimed cash to tackle the problem, including budgets for specialised drug courts, was being cut by the SNP.
Justice spokesman Richard Baker said: "These figures are quite simply shocking and it is becoming increasingly clear the SNP are not taking action against drug abuse.
"Recorded drug crimes are increasing and the evidence points to a worsening situation.
"But despite a manifesto commitment to invest more in drug rehabilitation, the SNP are investing less. At a time when drug misuse is increasing, it is wrong to be cutting budgets designed specifically to help people kick their addictions."
Lib Dem justice spokesman Robert Brown said: "Ministers must explain why, when we have the facilities for rehabilitation, many drug abusers still are not getting the treatment they need."
And Tory spokesman John Lamont said: "We have to expand the range of rehabilitation services and move to abstinence and recovery."
Oct 7 2009 By Magnus Gardham
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