Pubdate: Fri, 12 Apr 2002
Source: Herald, The (UK)
Copyright: 2002 The Herald
Author: Lorna Martin
Bookmark: (Heroin)


DOCTORS in the Highlands are calling for local drug support services to be 
established as a matter of urgency after police confirmed there had been a 
significant rise in the availability of heroin in the area.

The Herald reported last month GPs had written to the health minister 
requesting a share of funding to help them deal with a growing problem. 
Now, figures from police confirm a significant rise in heroin seizures.

Northern Constabulary netted more of the class A drug in the first three 
months of this year than in the whole of 2001. Last year, they seized three 
times as much heroin as the year 2000. But the police were unable to give 
precise figures of how much heroin was involved. The number of drug 
offences has also increased from 1188 in 2000 to 1701 last year, the police 

Inverness and Easter Ross are the worst affected areas but there have been 
serious concerns about the infiltration of hard drugs into rural areas like 

The upsurge in heroin availability in Fort William has already been linked 
to a number of recent drug-related deaths, with local GPs warning that more 
lives will be wasted unless the area gets more support services.

The senior partners in the town's three medical practices wrote to the 
health minister last month highlighting the growing problem and associated 
deaths and asking for extra resources.

Doctors Jim Douglas, Chris Robinson and Michael Foxley, had already told 
Malcolm Chisholm that drug abuse was not only an urban problem and asked 
for a share of the UKP100m of financial support he had pledged to 
communities to assist in dealing with the problem.

Yesterday, Dr Foxley, who is also a Highland councillor, said there was an 
urgent need for locally-based support. "At the moment, the nearest 
facilities are 70 miles away in Inverness," he said. "For those further 
afield it might be 120 miles.

"The last time I tried to get a heroin addict taken in for treatment, the 
appointment was going to be 10 days away. That is no service whatsoever."

Dr Foxley added that, on a pro rata basis, Lochaber should be entitled to 
around UKP400,000 of the UKP100m earmarked as support.

Earlier this month, Northern Constabulary seized a quantity of heroin with 
an estimated street value of about UKP40,000.

Inspector Gordon Greenlees, the force's drugs co-ordinator, stressed that 
while the Highlands and Islands remained the safest place to live in the UK 
regarding levels of drug addiction and crime, they had noticed a 
significant rise in heroin in the past couple of years.

He added: "We've recently had a number of significant seizures and a number 
of smaller seizures throughout the area. In the first quarter of the year 
we have already exceeded the amount seized the previous year, and in 2001 
the amount of heroin seized was three times greater than in 2000, so we are 
noticing a big difference. It is a cause for concern."

James Orr, director of the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency, said: "It is 
clear that drug misuse affects all of Scotland's communities both urban and 

A spokeswoman for the executive said UKP100m would be provided over the 
next three years to tackle Scotland's drug problem. Of this, NHS Highland 
would receive UKP1m to support the treatment of drug misusers, while 
Highland Council would be given UKP830,000 to support rehabilitation services.

Another UKP690,000 would be targeted towards projects in the Highlands for 
families caught up in drug misuse.
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