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Third of drug users in Tayside and Fife hooked since teenagers

Drugs found in a Dundee tenement over the weekend.
Drugs found in a Dundee tenement over the weekend.

Shocking figures have revealed that up to a third of drug users in Tayside and Fife began to get hooked on substances when they were in their early years of secondary school.

In Dundee 24.9% of addicts first tried drugs when they were aged under 15, with the majority of users having tried their first drug by the age of 19.

Angus had the highest number of under-15s trying drugs (33.9% of all drug users) and in Perth, 27.8% had their first taste before that age.

In Fife, the percentage was 20.4% – the lowest of all Courier Country – according to the 2014-15 figures, the latest made available by the Scottish Drug Misuse Database

Overall reported drug use in the NHS Tayside area has fallen slightly between 2015 and 2012 from 861 to 715 people.

Kieran Watson, of Dundee youth charity Eighteen and Under, said that more should be done to target drug suppliers, in addition to educating young people about the dangers of drugs.

He explained: “Any drug use is concerning, but there’s an additional worry with very young people as they are unable to truly understand the damage drugs do.

“That being said, it isn’t surprising to hear about these figures.

“It is part of human nature to have misadventures when young and to want to try things.

“Educating young people and giving them information about the dangers of drugs is an important starting point, but it’s a sad fact that some of them will still take them.

“It might be due to peer pressure or because they’ve seen someone they look up to, for example an older relative, take them.

“So it’s important to target the source of these drugs and to build strong communities, so that drug dealing can be prevented and we can all look out for young people.”

Social isolation and exclusion appeared to be a prevalent factor among drug users, with 38% of them living alone and 12% being homeless.

The majority (61%) experienced mental health problems and 17% had issues with alcohol as well as drugs.

A spokesperson for NHS Tayside said: “Substance misuse is a major public health issue at national level and remains a priority for NHS Tayside.

“Early intervention is important to tackle the circumstances that lead to substance use, alongside the provision of co-ordinated, holistic health and social care to address the multiple needs of those at highest risk of drug-related injury or death.

“NHS Tayside works closely with its partners including the three regional alcohol and drug partnerships (ADPs) and supports the provision and development of recovery-focused services within the community for people who have substance misuse problems.

“Substance misuse services across Tayside aim to deliver recovery-focused care which identifies, assesses and responds to a wider range of issues, recognising the significance of family, relationship, housing, mental health, employment and education in recovery.”

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