Pubdate: Sat, 21 Aug 1999
Source: Scotsman (UK)
Copyright: The Scotsman Publications Ltd 1999
Author: Frank Urquhart


A BATCH of high-grade heroin is thought to be responsible for the death of
one addict and two near-fatal overdoses by drug users in Aberdeen over the
past 24 hours, it was revealed yesterday.

The latest tragedy brings the drugs death toll for the year in the Grampian
Police force area to 21, with two other suspected drug-related deaths still
to be confirmed. The corresponding toll by last August was 19.

As detectives continued their inquiries into the city's latest drugs
tragedy, Grampian Police issued an urgent warning to addicts throughout the
north-east to be on their guard.

Inspector Les Johnston, the force's drugs liaison co-ordinator, said: "The
death yesterday evening is being treated as drugs related and highlights the
lethal dangers of taking drugs. There may be heroin of a higher than normal
purity in the area. The fact that these three incidents all happened
yesterday evening is causing us increasing concern.

"The danger with the drug user is that he or she doesn't know the quality or
the purity, or even the content of the drugs, they are buying. They are
putting themselves in danger of an overdose when they take illegal drugs."

And he warned: "The toll could have been higher had it not been for the
professionalism and skill of the ambulance staff who dealt with the two
suspected overdoses."

The body of a man in his 30s was discovered in a flat in Aberdeen's Bedford
Avenue on Thursday night following an apparent drugs overdose.

And paramedics saved the lives of two other men following suspected
overdoses in the neighbouring Tillydrone area.

The body was found after police received an anonymous telephone call.
Inquiries are continuing to establish his identity. The results of a
post-mortem examination are not expected until today.

Insp Johnston said: "We are continuing our inquiries into the three
incidents but there is nothing to suggest that they are linked. There are no
suspicious circumstances surrounding the suspected drugs death and a report
will be submitted to the procurator-fiscal."

Grahame Cronkshaw, the drugs misuse policy manager with Grampian Health
Board, said the authority was gravely concerned about the increasing death toll.

"What we are trying to do is to get drug misusers in touch with health
services. We know from the research we have done that, of the numbers of
drug misusers, only a proportion are in touch with the health services where
they can be given precise advice and information and then go into treatment
programmes and so on," he said.

"If they are not in touch with services we have no control whatsoever. They
are an unknown group and a very high risk and vulnerable group."

Mr Cronkshaw said: "If you get certain batches of slightly higher purity
heroin coming along some of them will overdose because they obviously don't
know what they are taking and the strength of it.

"And in order to try and overcome that you have to get them in touch with
services and then determine what is best for them."

Mr Cronkshaw also warned that there was still no sign of the scale of heroin
abuse even beginning to level out in the north-east. Grampian already has
the highest number of heroin abusers per head of the population in Britain.

Batches of near-pure heroin have been blamed for the deaths of addicts in
Glasgow, Bristol and Sheffield in recent months.

More than half of 16-year-old Scots have taken drugs while one in ten of
primary school children have been offered them, according to a new survey.

The research published by Calton Athletic, the Glasgow-based support group,
showed 52 per cent of pupils will have tried drugs, usually cannabis, by the
time they leave school.

The findings emerged as the suspected overdose of a 31-year-old woman in
Dennistoun, Glasgow, brought this year's drugs-related death toll in
Strathclyde to 96.

Meanwhile, police confirmed seizures of cannabis and heroin with an
estimated street-value of UKP260,000 in the city. Three men were arrested.

Calton Athletic, which has been criticised for a hard-line approach
encouraging addicts to come off heroin without the use of other substitute
drugs, said the survey of school children underlined the importance of drugs

Researcher questioned 5,537 Primary 6 and 7 pupils at 120 schools across the
country and found that 9 per cent of them had been offered drugs while
nearly 3 per cent had tried them.

The number of children offered drugs rose to 20 per cent of pupils in the
first year of secondary school with 12 per cent actually taking them before
increasing again in the later years of secondary school with 73 per cent of
16-year-olds being offered drugs and 52 per cent taking them.

However, Alistair Ramsay, director of Scotland Against Drugs, yesterday
launched copies of a study aid diary which reminds children that drug-taking
is not a majority activity.

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