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Crisis over rocketing number of addicts hooked on turbo coke; USERS AGED 60 IN GRIP OF SUPER-STRENGTHCOCAINE AS EXPERTS WARN OF DRUG EPIDEMIC; Therapist We have got to start educating people about dangers.

Byline: Norman Silvester

Scotland is in the grip of a super-strength cocaine epidemic that has seen users as old as 60 become hooked on the drug.

Frontline services say the number of people seeking addiction help has soared.

One self-help group have seen an increase in the number of therapy sessions by 150 per cent since 2012.

And a rehab centre told how 40 per cent of their new admissions are now cocaine users desperate to kick their habit.

The worrying trend has been blamed on dealers selling high purity cocaine to punters on the street.

A gram of the drug used to cost PS50 but now changes hands for PS100.

However, its purity has rocketed from an average 25 per cent to more than 75 per cent, according to a police drugs expert.

The turbo-charged cocaine is known as "proper" among the country's army of users. The weaker version of the drug which is cut with other substances is known as "council".

Cocaine Anonymous (CA) revealed how they have been forced to increase the number of meetings they have in Glasgow - Scotland's biggest city - from 32 to 80 each week. Some have as many as 60 people turning up looking for support.

CA help cocaine addicts as young as 16 - but they are also counselling people aged 60 and over who are battling addiction problems. More than 100 meetings each week take place across the country.

Castle Craig Hospital - a rehab centre near Peebles, in the Borders - revealed their staff have been shocked by the increase in cocaine addicts seeking help.

CA volunteer Mark, 29, a former user who works as a salesman, said the number of people seeking help for their addiction is at unprecedented levels.

Every day, five new people call their helpline because of problems with their cocaine use.

He said: "Epidemic is the word I'd use to describe the situation just now.

"When I first attended recovery meetings I was 23 and one of the youngest. Now you're finding people a lot younger than that. Users are able to get hold of the higher purity cocaine quite easily.

"We are seeing the results of that in terms of the people who come through our doors looking for help.

"CA have people in their 60s and coming for help for the first time. "We have older recovering addicts who have been clean for 20 years.

"I'd not be surprised to see more coming through in that age group looking for help."

Many addicts looking for help are middle-class professionals, including nurses and doctors.

Some have spent as much as PS1000 per week on feeding their habit. Around 66 per cent of people seeking help are men.

CA also organise daily meetings in Edinburgh, Fife, Ayrshire, Falkirk, Dumbartonshire, Renfrewshire, Stirling, Lanarkshire, Dundee, Greenock and Inverness. In October, more than 500 recovering addicts attended a CA hotel seminar in the capital, compared to 400 in 2017.

Edinburgh's branch of CA were set up just over a year ago and are now running 29 meetings a week across the east and north of Scotland to help addicts.

Castle Craig said their staff have also been dealing an increase in the number of cocaine addicts seeking help.

Senior therapist Tony Marini, 53, says 40 per cent of their patients have problems - their highest ever figure. Tony, who is also a recovering cocaine addict, added: "We've also seen an increase in the number of people being admitted with cocaine addiction, some as young as 18.

"I was using it for 20 years and was 40 when I got into recovery. We need to start educating people from a very young age about its dangers."

A Police Scotland detective sergeant, who specialises in drug seizures but could not be named, warned that users were exposed to super-strength varieties of the drug.

The officer said: "We have functioning addicts these days, who hold down jobs and can afford to pay for their habits.

"The different grades of cocaine on the market are priced accordingly.

"At the street level, you will get what we call council coke, which is cheaper but and has the lowest purity at about 25 percent.At the other end, you have the so-called proper coke with can be 75 per cent purity and upwards.

"This cocaine is potentially dangerous because it is higher strength.

"However the lower purity cocaine has more adulterant in it, which also has the potential to be harmful."

Chief Superintendent John McKenzie, head of safer communities for Police Scotland, added: "We recognise that cocaine use is becoming more prevalent.

"Often people who use cocaine do not consider themselves problematic drug users and do not seek support.

"As such, it is extremely difficult to estimate the number of people who are using cocaine in Scotland."

Mental health, drug and alcohol charity Addaction say cocaine addicts should be seeking help.

Public policy manager Steve Moffatt added: "Over the past few years we've seen an increase in the number of people taking cocaine.

"We know there are people taking cocaine who have dependence issues. It can have a very negative impact on relationships, work and health. "Unfortunately a lot of people aren't seeking or getting any help or support.

"We need to give people more encouragement to come forward if they are concerned and get support in a way that works for them."

If you have a problem with cocaine or other drugs, call the CA helpline on 0141 959 6363 or visit www.cascotland.org.uk for free confidential advice.

MY LIFE WAS OUT OF CONTROL..I WAS USING EVERY DAY LINDA'S STORY One out of every three cocaine addicts in Scotland are now women.

Hospital nurse Linda, 35, who lives near Motherwell, Lanarkshire battled cocaine abuse for two decades.

At one stage, Linda had three jobs to pay for her habit.

She would also raise money from credit cards, payday loans and her overdraft but still ended up owing large sums to dealers.

Linda said: "My life was spiralling out of control and I was using every day.

"I was in thousands of pounds of debt and declared myself bankrupt. I began making mistakes at work and faced losing my job.

"My mental health was in tatters and my relationship broke up.

"I suffered from anxiety and paranoia and wanted to kill myself." She says joining CA has saved her life.

Linda added: "I'm now a happier person.

"For the first time in years I keep fit and eat well."

However, Linda has been left with permanent damage to one of her nostrils and a heart condition, both from cocaine abuse.

I THOUGHT COCAINE WAS GLAMOROUS PETER'S STORY Peter, 20, an HGV mechanic from Cumbernauld, Lanarkshire, began using cocaine when he was 16.

He became hooked after watching football hooligan movies like Green Street and the Football Factory, which featured cocaine use.

Peter said "I was mesmerised and thought it was glamorous and the way I wanted to live my life.

"When I took cocaine for the first time, I loved the feeling it gave me.

"I was 19 when I realised I had a real problem."

Things came to a head for Peter when he went on a four-day bender last year and even went to work under the influence.

He joined CA in October 2017 and has been clean since.

He said: "I'm a better person. I look forward to each day rather than dreading it."

MARK'S STORY It took me 10 years to realise I had a problem Recovering addicts, who asked that we do not use their real names, spoke to the Sunday Mail about how cocaine has blighted their lives.

They also praised the work done by Cocaine Anonymous in helping them to try to beat their habit.

Dad Mark, 29, from Bishopbriggs, near Glasgow, has been clean for around 12 months, having first taken cocaine at the age of 16.

He decided to seek help last year after his partner walked out on him with their young son because of his drug use.

Mark added: "I don't know why I became addicted to cocaine.

"It took me 10 years to realise I had a problem. I had to do something to get my family back.

"I was bingeing on cocaine, locking myself away and spending up to PS800 a week.

"When I hit rock bottom, I considered ending my life and was admitted to a psychiatric unit at Stobhill Hospital in Glasgow. "However, the only thing I found that helped was CA."

Mark first began taking cocaine when he was 16 while on a football holiday in Portugal with friends in 2005. He added: "Cocaine quickly became a normal part of my life."

Epidemic is the word I'd use to describe the situation just now

CAPTION(S):

DANGER Strength of coke has increased to an average of more than 75 per cent Picture Getty Images/EyeEm

help. Castle Craig, above, and Tony Marini
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 16, 2018
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