DRUG workers in Shetland are warning of the dangers of mixing cocaine and alcohol and taking legal highs, such as the herbal incense Annihilation, in the Christmas party season.
Staff at Shetland’s alcohol and drugs service CADSS say they have seen a sharp decline in the use of heroin amongst young people in the isles over the past two years.
However cocaine use is widespread and increasing, while legal highs are now flooding Shetland to become the drug of choice for young people as they are cheap and carry no risk of arrest.
However their use has seen two youngsters hospitalised in the past three months, with one young man having to be brought round after his heart stopped beating.
Meanwhile a campaign to warn people of the risk of combining cocaine and alcohol is being run in the build up to Christmas after research has shown the cocktail creates a toxic third chemical cocatheylene that causes liver damage and heart attacks.
CADSS substance misuse worker Jim Moran said it was worrying how few people who used drugs were aware of the risks.
“Cocaine is really rife in Shetland in pubs and house parties and most people who use cocaine will be drinking at the same time. A couple of lines of coke helps you keep drinking all night and young people want to party all night.
“What most people are not aware of is that it can come back and bite you in the bum later, because long term use has a really bad effect on your heart and liver.
“No one we have warned about it in the run up to Christmas had ever heard about this, which is quite scary.”
CADSS young people’s worker Jenny Gilmore said the concern with legal highs was that people thought they were safe and not as strong as drugs like cannabis.
“The reason they are not illegal is that they have not been tested yet and I am sure they will be put on the banned list soon.
“A lot of young people think they are safe but they can be a lot stronger than cannabis and can cause heart palpitations and blurred vision.
“A few young people in Shetland have been hospitalised after using them and in one case a young man’s heart actually stopped and he had to be brought round again.”
Gilmore added that people were now importing large batches of drugs like Annihilation into Shetland because they believed it would soon be outlawed.
The drugs are made by spraying organic matter with chemicals that mimic the psychoactive properties of drugs like cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy.
CADSS manager Gill Hession said the decline in heroin was “excellent” and could be largely attributed to the introduction of an enhanced NHS Shetland service for addicts who no longer had to wait to be put on a substitute programme of methadone.
Educating young people about the risks of the drug and the increase in police activity and arrests have also contributed to the decline.
“What we are seeing now is legal highs being targetted at young people. That’s where the money is being made and it’s cooler to take them,” she said.
“But they are pretty nasty drugs in their own right and we are seeing an increase in the number of people having problems with them.”
Anyone experiencing health problems after taking drugs should go to Gilbert Bain Hospital’s accident and emergency department.
CADSS will be closed on Christmas and Boxing Day and on 1 and 2 January, but remains open otherwise at 44 Commercial Street, Lerwick, or on 01595 695363.
The NHS Shetland substance misuse team is also available at these times at 01595 743006.
More information about mixing cocaine and alcohol can be found at www.drinkingwithcharlie.co.uk
Useful contact numbers are:
Drugsline – 0808 1 606 606
Drinkline – 0800 917 8282
Samaritans – 08457 90 90 90
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