Inquiry into city's heroin death toll: 'Culture of injection' led to 112 addicts overdosing in past year

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The Independent Online
THE PARENTS of 100 drug addicts who were killed by overdoses last year in Glasgow yesterday joined forces at an inquiry called to discover why the number of drug-related deaths in the city is higher than anywhere else in Britain.

The investigation into the deaths of four addicts - picked as 'typical examples' of the 112 who have died since January last year - heard startling evidence of the grip drugs have on the city. Addicts, the inquiry at Glasgow Sheriff Court was told, have resorted to injecting heroin through their eyes after exhausting other 'injection sites' on their body. In some areas, streets and estates have been nicknamed after specific drugs.

Parents of the victims had demanded the inquiry to highlight Glasgow's 'slaughter by needle'.

Maxie Richards, administrator of a drugs crisis centre in the Possil Park area of the city, who wrote to Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, Scotland's senior law officer, urging an investigation, said: 'People are dying willy-nilly. Hundreds - and it is not clear why. We want to know . . . what we can do to stop it.'

Billy Campbell would have been 27 next week. He died last year in the Gorbals district of Glasgow after taking an overdose of heroin and the tranquiliser Temazepam. Yesterday his mother, Jean, 49, said: 'I know eight people who have died from drug abuse. People are dying all around me . . .The pushers are quite literally getting away with murder.'

The inquiry was told yesterday how the body of Linda Grabham, 25, was discovered slumped in the men's lavatories of a bar in the city centre, and how Margaret McGarry, 27, was found unconscious on her kitchen floor with a needle in her arm. Patrick Farrell, 29, and Shirley Kerr, 24, also collapsed after taking overdoses. All four died between January and August last year.

Experts seeking to explain the increasing number of drugs deaths in the city point to a 'lethal combination' of poverty and a 'culture of injection'. Scotland has more injecting drug addicts than any other country in western Europe - about 30,000. Of these, about 12,000 are thought to be in Glasgow.

David Liddell, co-ordinator of the Scottish Drugs Forum, said: 'Injecting is the most dangerous way of taking drugs because the drug goes straight into the bloodstream. This means that, if you were taking too much, the chances of death are increased. Also, if you are not using clean needles, the chances of infection are higher.

'There have always been more injecting addicts in Glasgow than in other cities which also have serious drug problems.'

At the start of the inquiry yesterday, Detective Inspector Alan Brown, of Strathclyde Police, described how, from 1992, 'drugs barons' introduced 'pure heroin' to the city in an effort to boost the number of addicts and 'create a ready market'.