Drug agencies facing heroin upsurge

New evidence points to alarming levels of heroin use among young clubbers. How can harm-reduction policies respond to the most feared drug of all? Thom Dibdin asks them.

Young clubbers are turning to heroin to help them come down after taking Ecstasy. according to Scottish drugs agencies. who link the rise in use to the harming of the opiate teinazepam and the failure ofthe Government‘s ‘scarc' techniques.

The BBC 's FI'HIII/flit’ Sent/um! recently reported that heroin Use has reached epidemic levels in Fraserburgh and Grarnpian. Quoting new Home Office statistics. it claimed Grampian had the highest rate of registered drug addicts in Scotland: 950 per million residents. However. The List has discovered clubbers all over the country are turning to the drug. in the mistaken beliefthat they will not become addicted if they smoke it.

The programme attempted to provoke an argument between those who favour a ‘safer drugs use' or ‘harm reduction‘ approach and those who believe there can be no safe level of heroin use. However. the agencies on the ground argue a more constructive approach is needed.

‘We have had an increase of people wanting information on heroin.‘ confirmed Lil. Skelton of Edinlmrgh-based safer drugs use agency Crew 2000. ‘l’eople are smoking it to come down after they have been clubbing. They use it now and again. btrt that‘s it. and they are maybe getting into smoking it more and more.

‘h/leanwhilc. younger folk in Wester llailes are sitting around the house smoking it. They have done Es. speed and jellies [ternazepaml and now it's heroin. These are people who at one time were saying heroin was just for junkies."

The trend is confirmed by Geoff Young. manager of Northern l’aramcdical Services which provides health and safety cover at over 300 dance events a year. ‘Srnoking heroin probably started to rear its ugly head a couple of months ago.‘ he says. ‘Maybe it is because jellies are now difficult to obtain. There is an element of the dance scene who have to go home to mum and they can't if they are flying high. as they may be when they leave the dance event.

‘l’reviously they may have taken a couple ofjellies to bring them down. now the alternative is to smoke

Why would i want to do that: have movies made heroin ‘trendy'?

heroin. In a lot of cases they have been sold it already rolled into a joint. It works effectively and they don‘t get instantly hooked. but they do eventually get addicted to it.'

Part of the problem is that heroin itself has been ‘sexed up' according to Willie McBride of Enhance. the Glasgow recreational drugs project. Films like Trainspotting and Pulp Fir/[mi have provided images of heroin which are equivocal about use of the drug.

l‘lowever. McBride ernpbasises the increase in heroin use must be seen as part of a wider picture. a complex weave between the reduction in the availability of temazepam and cannabis and the de-sensitisation of a generation of drug users to drug scares.

Enhance has had 5000 people pass though the doors of its city centre advice shop. which opened last year. ‘Peoplc have been de-sensitiscd to the idea that all drugs are dangerous.‘ says McBride. ‘ln addition. many people who go through the range of drugs from stimulants to psychedelics and drink. think of themselves as reasonably sophisticated consumers. There is a tendency to think they can handle any drug.‘

Even the Scottish Office-funded anti-drugs coalition. Scotland Against Drugs. recognises it is going to have to change the tone of its anti-drugs message. ‘Heroin was always seen as a drug which was used at the

hardest end of the spectrum.‘ says David Macauley. SAD's campaign director. ‘Now heroin is being used by a younger group and drugs education has to take that into account.‘

Manchester-based agency Lifeline was one of Britain's first organisations devoted to promoting safer drug use. Its chief executive lan Wardle warns there is no safe level of heroin use. ‘Drugs like heroin are frighteningly attractive. as are drugs like crack cocaine.‘ he says. ‘But these drugs are so powerful that they can quickly enslave the people who use regularly.‘

However. Crew 2000's Liz Skelton emphasises that the Glasgow agency will not change its approach and start telling young people to ‘just say ' no' to heroin. Although the problem in Edinburgh is not yet on the same level as in Grampian. they are producing a leaflet aimed at harm reduction for heroin users.

“It is not yet a crisis.‘ she says. ‘but we have got to be ready for it. So often with heroin. people have started to react when it is too late. ln Grampian the harm is already done. The people we are talking to are not those who are going to be getting into heroin. they have already decided they are going to use it. so we will have to be providing very specific harm reduction advice.‘

And finally. . . It’s a dirty business, when all is said and dung

Anyone accusing this column of continually peddling a sordid pile of manure can rest assured. This issue contains enough for several acres of rosebeds.

And what better place to start than a Dundee pub? A survey of watering- holes in the city found contaminated ice in four out of five hostelries recently visited by environmental health officers.

Among the organisms identified were faecal streptococci. City of Discovery. indeed. The Daily Slur found a willing quotee at the council who warned: ‘We will come down hard on anyone who does not come up to scratch.‘ in other words, anywhere that's a bit of a dump.

Someone who has recently been accused of talking what is known in street-speak as ‘shite'. is Mr Brian

Harvey who received the big E from his popular beat combo. East l7.

Ever since his ill-advised comments over Ecstasy. be has been attempting to cover up the damage while simultaneously having a go at anyone within earshot.

Ex-lover and ex-EastEnder Danniella W ‘stbrook was described by Harvey as ‘the biggest Charlie-head this side ofthe planet.‘ Grateful thanks go to the Daily Rt‘t'UI'l/ for pointing out that this was a drugs reference.

Back on the faecal front. UK parents are spending £2l a second on keeping British babies bottics as pleasantly fragrant as is humanly possible. An estimated £654.5million was dished out last year on nappies. wipes and sterilising products. Selling like hotcakes. ifyou will. Only the Dutch splash out more.

I don't know. when l was a nipper I enjoyed nothing better than a roll in

my own mud. Pigs. of course make a living ottt of it. The Sum/try Mirror told the sorry tale of Charlotte and Constance. the Vietnamese pot-bellied porkers.

Their idyllic lifestyles were shattered when their owners decided to get a divorce. leaving the curly-tailed couple facing the abattoir.

Thank the blazes that the good people at a Rochdale animal sanctuary stepped in to save their bacon.‘ (Come on. you knew it was coming... )

‘They were a bit traumatised when they arrived.‘ insisted Norma Wilkinson.

Rasher still. is \Valsall's lvy Jones. The 76-year-old claims to have discovered a new cure for arthritis. She believes keeping elephant dung in her bra alleviates the pain.

The Record informed us that the dear old lady‘s novel idea came to her in a dream. No shit? 'My shoulder has


K. Brian Harvey: more drug references

been moving more freely than it used to.‘ quoth lvy. Yeah. but you probably smell like a vast roomful of unflushed khazis. (Brian Donaldson)

The List 24 Jan-6 Feb 1997 5