Pubdate: Tue, 27 Nov 2001
Source: Scotsman (UK)
Copyright: The Scotsman Publications Ltd 2001
Author: Frank Urquhart


THE prosperity of Europe's oil capital has led to a massive upsurge in
the use of cocaine, heroin and other hard drugs among Aberdonians, it
was revealed yesterday.

Drug agency workers are increasingly concerned that the number of
wealthy addicts seeking help through normal channels may represent
only the tip of an iceberg of drug addiction among Aberdeen's

The fears about the scale of drug abuse among the affluent population
have been highlighted in a new draft strategy published by the
Aberdeen City Drug Action Team. It reveals that one of the major
problems facing workers in assessing the true extent of the city's
drug scourge is the fact that many drug abusers may be seeking help
from the private sector, rather than through community-based and
government services.

The strategy states: "There is widespread recognition that Aberdeen
has a substantial drug problem, which can be damaging not only to
individuals and their families, but also the wider community. Not only
do these communities suffer from the deaths and health problems caused
by drugs, but they also feel the effects of crime from drug misuse."

The report continues: "Drug use is often associated with poverty and
social exclusion, but this can be misleading. Aberdeen is rightly seen
as a prosperous city and yet has the third-largest rate of
drug-related offences of local authority areas in Scotland.

"The profile of users in Aberdeen also reflects this affluence, with a
relatively large population of drug users in employment, highlighting
the importance of drug issues in the workplace.

"In more affluent communities within the city, the prevalence of this
problem can be hidden. Our recognised data systems do not reflect
individuals who access private healthcare."

Grahame Cronkshaw, the substance abuse policy manager for NHS
Grampian, told The Scotsman that almost 50 per cent of the city's drug
addicts who seek help through the NHS were in employment.

Twenty-one per cent were in long-term employment and 27 per cent had
been employed for less than a year, compared with 9 and 11 per cent in
Glasgow, and 11 and 12 per cent in Edinburgh.

The figure is even higher in Aberdeenshire, with 34 per cent of
addicts in long-term employment and 29 per cent employed less than one

Mr Cronkshaw said: "We have a high level of people in employment,
although some of that employment may be very casual and of a very low
skill base.

"But what we don't know about are those who are not coming through the
NHS system and are going into private health care.

"We have very little data on them. There may be people in very good
jobs, living in affluent areas of the city, who are receiving private

Mr Cronkshaw continued: "Drugs affect all parts of the social
spectrum. It particularly affects those that have no job and no stable
home and nothing to fight back with once they are down. If you are a
famous footballer or film star with drug problems you can go off to
Barbados for months and relax. But you can't do that if you stay in

Stan Smith, the assistant director of social work with Aberdeen City
Council, agreed there could be a hidden population of well-heeled drug
addicts within the city.

He said: "It is difficult to get any handle on the actual

"But what is unusual about Aberdeen is that, relatively speaking,
there is a higher percentage of drug users in employment than is the
case in other areas of Scotland.

"That is linked to the high levels of employment and the relative
affluence of the city.

"There are people who are taking drugs but also holding down good
jobs. It is the same with alcohol."

Mr Smith added: "The problem we face is that, because they are not
coming into the system, it is very hard to deal with the problem."
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake