Pubdate: Thu, 30 Dec 1999
Source: Scotsman (UK)
Copyright: The Scotsman Publications Ltd 1999
Author: Frank Urquhart And Tom Little


A LEADING health manager has called for detailed research into the cause of
the spiralling drug problem, following a spate of deaths among young people.

The demand was made after the number of drug-related deaths in a single year
hit new peaks in both the Strathclyde and Grampian police force areas. The
toll of victims across Scotland in 1999 is also expected to create a grim

A post-mortem examination is expected to be carried out today on one of the
most recent victims, Kerry-Ann Kirk, 15. It is expected to confirm the
Coatbridge schoolgirl died after experimenting with methadone, the heroin

If the cause is confirmed as methadone, Kerry-Ann's death will bring the
drug-related death toll in Strathclyde this year to 146, while yesterday it
was reported that Grampian police were handling their 31st case of the year.
Inquiries have included claims that Craig Rennie, 23, of Ellon had taken
ecstasy before he died on Christmas Day.

Frank Harnett, the general manager of Grampian Health Board, said in his
annual review that drug-taking in Grampian was different from other parts of
Scotland .

A number of reports, published earlier this year, have already uncovered
disturbing evidence of the scale of heroin abuse among young people in
Aberdeen and in towns along the Buchan coast.

Ninety per cent of all heroin abusers attending a drugs counselling service
in the city are now injecting the drug instead of smoking it - compared with
a Scottish average of 60 per cent. They are also injecting heroin at an
earlier age than anywhere else in Scotland.

A drugs conference in Aberdeenshire also heard earlier this year that one in
five 21-year-old men registered with Fraserburgh's main medical practice are
heroin addicts.

Mr Hartnett emphasised that drugs are an increasing problem for the
north-east. "One important message is to recognise that drug taking in
Grampian is different to other parts of Scotland. We are not sure why this
is the case, which points to the need for more research.

"Another important message is to recognise that a solution to the whole
problem must lie not only without colleagues in the local authorities, the
police, the NHS trusts and other members of the three drug action teams in
Grampian, but also with whole communities.

"To succeed in dealing with all of the many facets of this truly awful
problem, we will need a collaborative, agreed approach based on evidence and
supported by appropriate resources."

Kerry-Ann's death, after a Christmas party, provoked Donald Dewar, the First
Minister, to warn parents two days ago that it would be a "long haul" to
defeat the scourge of drugs.

Kerry-Ann was said to have had no experience with drugs before her ill-fated
experiment. Mark Stack, 23, the elder brother of Kerry-Ann's boyfriend Sean,
16, is a recovering heroin addict who admitted it may have been his
methadone that she took.

Kerry-Ann's mother, Marie, 39, said yesterday: "The funeral is going to be
in the new year now. That will be the worst time because then it will be
final. Until then I know that she is still with us. That gives me some
comfort, but when she gets buried that will be the end. I'm really just
biding my time just now though I'm grieving inside."

Kevin Stack, Mark's father, of School Street, Coatbridge, denied that
Kerry-Ann had access to methadone at the party in his home. "These stories
are all lies. There was definitely no methadone being passed about at the
party. I have spoken to some of the girls who were there and they assured me
they never took any methadone in my house."

A drug courier caught with UKP99,000 worth of heroin was jailed yesterday
for five years.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard that William Smith, 30, was being chased
by money lenders over debts run up as a result of his own drug habit. Smith
agreed to pick up the heroin and make two deliveries for UKP200.

Detectives were watching as Smith returned to his home at Culrain Street,
Glasgow, last September with the drugs and they followed him when he left
later. He was detained as he was making his first delivery.

At an earlier hearing Smith, unemployed, had pleaded guilty to being
concerned in the supply of heroin. Sentence had been deferred until
yesterday for background reports.
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