Complex problems are placing a specialist service for Tayside drug users under greater pressure than ever before.
Over the past decade the Tayside Substance Misuse Service has seen a massive increase in the number of drug users requiring its aid.
In 2005 it had nearly 800 clients from across the region who were seeking methadone treatment or detox, but by the end of 2014 that number had rocketed to around 2,400.
Dr Brian Kidd is NHS Tayside’s lead clinician for substance misuses and heads the service, which helps people across Tayside who require treatment for significant addictions.
“Drug use is an increasingly complex issue as there are now very few people with ‘simple’ drug problems such as the injecting of heroin alone,” he said.
“The people who are turning to specialist treatment services such as NHS Tayside’s are far more likely to be abusing a combination of drugs.
“They are taking a cocktail of substances, often including heroin and other opiates, mixed with prescription drugs diverted into illicit use and often legal highs and alcohol too.”
Dr Kidd added: “Drug use is a far more complex than many people realise, with prescription drugs an increasingly great problem across the country.
“In the USA, researchers have long claimed that abuse of prescribed painkillers is a more severe problem than illicit heroin use.
“In recent years there has, however, been a massive increase across Scotland in the prescribing of opiates and other drugs that carry with them the potential for abuse.
“You can be prescribed the medication for a few days in the wake of a serious operation and be discharged, only to find that the pain is worse than anticipated.
“A visit to a GP can see a second prescription made and then it becomes a repeat prescription and by this stage a drug that was to be taken for a few days has been used for three weeks.
“That can be the beginning of a serious problem.”