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Scotland Opiate Treatment is Endangering Other Drug Users

Director of Scottish Drugs Forum, David Liddell, explained that more cocaine, ecstasy and alcohol users landed in emergency departments, in 2017, than opiate and opioid users. This came as an interesting twist—opiates like heroin and fentanyl “were Scotland’s biggest problem in terms of substance misuse.” This, he explained, indicated that the focus of drug services in the country made seeking help for cocaine or ecstasy abuse more difficult.

The Global Drug Survey 2017 revealed that drug users in Scotland used marijuana, cocaine, and MDMA most frequently. Scotland also showed a higher percentage of hazardous alcohol drinkers than hazardous alcohol drinkers in the average country surveyed. More cocaine, MDMA, and alcohol users turned up in A&E departments in Scotland than most of the UK; Liddell said that the country needed harm reduction advice for cocaine, MDMA, and alcohol, not just services and programs for opioid users.

However, cocaine users throughout the United Kingdom needed emergency treatment at an increasing rate. Researchers and authorities attributed this increase two a marked increase in cocaine’s average purity. Researchers theorized one possible explanation for the increased purity of cocaine in the UK: an increased number of darknet marketplace drug users.

The majority of surveyed countries had an increasing number of darknet market users. And while MDMA remained the most frequently purchased drug on the DNMs, vendors still sold cocaine and at a potentially higher purity. The survey noted that “darknet markets offer users the opportunity to obtain good quality cocaine with reduced levels of perceived risk. As such, it might be the case that darknet markets lead to more harmful use by some people.”

Dr. Adam Winstock of the Global Survey explained that a higher purity may not be a good thing:

In terms of big trends I think the increase in many countries in the purity and quality of drugs like cocaine and MDMA are placing more people at risk. It’s simply not true that better quality drugs are safer. They could be if people were better informed about what they were using and educated more practically about safer ways of using.”

MDMA hospital admissions in the UK versus admissions worldwide provide a good example of positive trends likely linked to drug education. Globally, 1.2 percent of people who took MDMA reported they needed emergency treatment during the last 12 months. In 2014, only 0.6 percent reported the same. However, in the UK, only 0.8 percent of MDMA users reported that they needed medical attention as a result of MDMA use.

That decline suggested that campaigns such as “Don’t Be Daft Start With Half” positively impacted drug users in the region.

Liddell concluded with a similar belief:

The Global Drug Survey gives a useful insight into the range and levels of drugs used in Scotland by people who often do not engage with drug treatment services. This report highlights the gap in service provision for people who would like to cut down their use of cocaine or cannabis in Scotland and reinforces other research about Scotland’s relationship with problematic alcohol use.”

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