Scots heroin addicts 'should get substitute': MPs say dispensing methadone can reduce almost uncontainable drug problem in Scottish inner-cities. John Arlidge reports

HEROIN addicts should be given substitute drugs to combat the growing problem of addiction which is 'on the verge of becoming uncontainable' in Glasgow and other Scottish cities, according to MPs.

In a House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee report published yesterday, MPs from all parties present evidence of a nation's youth ruined by drugs and say drug substitute programmes, including the dispensing of methadone, a heroin replacement, offer the best hope of tackling the problem.

The report says drug use has 'grown relentlessly' over the past 20 years to become 'one of the most serious problems facing Scotland today'. Across the country, more than 20,000 people regularly use illicit drugs or solvents, including 10 per cent of 13- to 15-year-olds and 25 per cent of 20-year-olds. The total cost of drug abuse - including funding treatment centres and fighting drugs-related crime - is almost pounds 1bn a year.

In Glasgow, which has more drug addicts per head of population than any other city in western Europe, 10,000 young people consume pounds 132m worth of drugs each year - mainly heroin, temazepam (a sedative) and painkillers such as codeine. Teenagers, the report notes, inject 'whatever they can lay their hands on'.

MPs say there is 'a clear correlation if not a causal relation' between deprivation and drug abuse. For youngsters living 'in areas where people are poor (and) where families disintegrate more regularly . . . using drugs as a way of having a good time is more likely to be on the menu'. Users' desperation 'to alter their perception of life around them' leads them to take 'anything they can get'.

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