Pubdate: Sun, 19 Apr 1998
Source: Sunday Times (UK)
Contact:  Bryan Christie

DR RESURRECTION STRUGGLES AGAINST DEADLY HEROIN TIDE

AMONG the addicts he is known as Dr Resurrection. Sandy Wisley, a rural GP
in northeast Scotland, is the only thing that stands between dozens of
cash-rich young people and death.

A crisis meeting is to be held this week in an attempt to halt a
frightening rise in heroin overdoses in the town of Fraserburgh.

Most of the problems affect high-earning young fishermen who have turned
from smoking the drug to injecting it, with disastrous consequences. Two
have died.

Wisley said 24 overdoses had been recorded in the five months to the
beginning of April, compared with just nine in the previous 11 months. Most
of them involved men aged between 17 and 25. "It was one in a blue moon
last year but it has just gone daft since December. We're now looking at
one every three days," he said.

Emergency treatment involving injections with the heroin antidote Narcan is
being used increasingly by doctors and ambulance staff to help save lives.
One man has been revived by this method four times. Another case involved a
three-year-old child who had swallowed methadone prescribed for her drug
addict mother.

"We are using Narcan to resurrect drug addicts," said Wisely, who described
the treatment as being akin to bringing addicts back to life. "They come in
totally blue from the tops of their head to the toes of their feet."

He blames the sudden upsurge in overdoses on a change in the way heroin is
being taken, especially by young fishermen.

There have long been problems of abuse among hard-living deep-sea
fishermen. Traditionally, heavy drinking characterised the time they spent
ashore before returning to a sober period at sea. Wisely has seen the same
patterns evolving with heroin use among young fishermen.

"It really is quite unique. There is a binge syndrome with heroin that
affects fishermen. They can be clean at sea and then come home for three to
five days when they binge on the drug, smoking eight to nine bags of heroin
a day at a cost of about 200 per day."

That pattern changed at the beginning of the year, when they turned to
injecting the drug, largely it is suspected because they were looking for a
bigger "hit". Too many have not been able to cope. One case involved a
fisherman who was delivered unconscious to Fraserburgh hospital two hours
after his boat had docked. It turned out to be his first heroin injection
and it almost killed him.

Wisley has other concerns about the move to injecting. "If they are going
to go towards IV [intravenous] use on shore, they are going to develop a
more dependent habit. They are obviously going to head towards daily
injections when they are at sea."

There is already some evidence that the accident rate at sea is increasing,
a situation that may deteriorate if drug use increases offshore.

Tomorrow Wisley will meet representatives of Fraserburgh Academy, Buchan
College and the Scottish White Fish Producers Association to discuss the
problem. "We need to act fairly rapidly to get something going such as an
education programme for these lads."

He also believes the fishing industry needs to look closely at introducing
random drug testing. "We don't know how many are involved or how few. If
the lads were tested prior to leaving the harbour, you would soon be able
to know who was involved."

Drug education programmes have been introduced in local primary schools and
at Fraserburgh Academy, but these have come too late for the group in
question.