Drug-Abuse Workers Cost Scots Firms [Pounds Sterling]17m a Year
Byline: Graham Grant Home Affairs Editor
WORKERS with drug problems cost Scottish industry more than [pounds sterling]17million a year through absence.
Figures published yesterday revealed there are more than 115,000 cocaine-users north of the Border - most of them classed as 'recreational'.
About 360,000 people - 7 per cent of the population - smoke cannabis, with 'recreational' users spending [pounds sterling]210million a year on the drug.
The full scale of Scotland's drug abuse epidemic was exposed by the Scottish Executive statistics.
'Problem' drug-users spend [pounds sterling]900million a year feeding their habit, while recreational users spent [pounds sterling]518million, a total of more than [pounds sterling]1.4billion.
The figures underline the wider consequences of the drugs menace, beyond the well-publicised scourge of heroin abuse in poorer areas.
They suggest so-called 'recreational' users are damaging the economy by failing to turn up to work due to their drug consumption.
Last night, the SNP was criticised for failing to devise a coherent strategy to tackle drugs misuse.
Scottish Labour justice spokesman Richard Baker claimed the figures were 'simply shocking'.
He said: 'It is becoming increasingly clear the SNP are simply not taking action against drug abuse.' David Liddell, director of the Scottish Drugs Forum, said the figures confirmed Scotland continues to have 'one of the highest prevalence rates of problematic drug use in Europe'.
As well as the [pounds sterling]1.4billion a year users spend feeding their habit, the overall annual cost of drug abuse to society is now thought to be [pounds sterling]3.5billion. This includes the cost of treating drug-users on the NHS and the cost to the criminal justice and social care systems, as well as wider costs to the economy and society.
The new figures, which relate to 2006, were released as statisticians also revealed the number of drug users in Scotland is growing. There were 55,328 problem drug-users in Scotland in 2006 - an increase of almost 4,000 from the previous survey in 2003.
Absences from work linked with drug misuse cost Scottish industry [pounds sterling]17,091,176 in 2006.
Some 22,398 employees missed work due to recreational drug use, while 2,866 were absent because of problem drug abuse.
The research also found there were 23,933 addicts injecting drugs.
The figures came from research carried out for the Executive and the information and statistics division of the NHS.
The researchers estimated that just over 90 per cent of problem drug-users took heroin, meaning there could be 50,077 heroin users in Scotland. …