Dundee’s drug deaths will rise “astronomically” when the latest figures are announced next year, it has been predicted.
Sharon Brand, who works daily and directly with people with addictions, said she is “100% sure” fatalities in 2019 will surpass this year, when a record high of 66 was hit.
The news comes after three men aged between 30 and 40 died of suspected drug overdoses at the weekend in the west of the city.
An influx of the anti-anxiety drug Xanax has been linked to the deaths.
Many of those abusing drugs in Dundee have reportedly been moving away from heroin towards crack cocaine, putting pressure on treatment services which are already struggling.
Ms Brand, who founded Recovery Dundee and is one of the city’s leading voices in the battle to reform drug treatment attitudes, said the situation is “very upsetting”.
She said: “I’ve been counting every time someone dies and it is rising, for sure.
“This year coming is going to be astronomical.
“We are talking about kids who are just 16 as well as those aged closer to 40 — the so-called ‘geriatric’ drug users.”
Local drugs authorities such as the police, council and health service are implementing a new strategy designed to tackle Dundee’s rising drug-related deaths.
It comes after the specially-formed Dundee Drugs Commission criticised the city’s “fractured” treatment system after 14 months of work.
Ms Brand, a former heroin user who overcame her addiction, said: “The younger ones from 16 to 24 take cocaine and to deal with the come-down, they will look for Valium.
“The easiest way to get that now is to buy it from the street and because the strength fluctuates, it can be lethal.
“Crack cocaine use is something I think all services are getting used to. It’s new and services aren’t really set-up to deal with it. It’s really hard just now.”
Dave Barrie, from the charity Addaction, said the spike in cocaine use has seen the price of heroin tumble.
He said: “There has been a massive increase in cocaine use recently and it’s possible this is why the price of heroin has fallen.
“Dealers could be trying to get people back to heroin. It’s supply and demand. Sadly, dealers target areas where people are desperate.
“In locations like Dundee, there’s a high demand to numb yourself from difficult times and a difficult life.
“We try and help people back into a normal and happy life by living healthily and in employment. We need to get more people in treatment and get more people detoxed.”