Derek Harper, ex-drug addict, poses in Edinburgh on January 17, 2018, where he told AFP his experience
The years and years of abuses of the so-called „Trainspotting generation“ are beginning to take their toll in the British region of Scotland, resulting in a sharp increase in drug deaths.
„I’ve seen a lot of death,“ said Derek Harper, 57, an ex-addict in the Leith suburb of Edinburgh, once infested with drugs and the setting for the 1996 film „Trainspotting.“
„Half of the people in the school, dead, half of the people living in my neighborhood, killed by drugs,“ he told AFP, citing in „hundreds“ his acquaintances who died in the last four decades due to this scourge.
The number of drug-related deaths was 867 in 2016, and the latest available international data show that the region had the highest rate of drug deaths in Europe, 110 per million in 2014, five times more than the average.
„I used drugs regularly for 38 years: Cannabis, heroin, drugs, crack, LSD, hallucinogenic mushrooms, everything, I was broken, spiritually, I was sick,“ Harper said.
„In the late 1970s, this place was full of ‚China White‘ heroin, and they found people on stairs, pubs, clubs, houses, overdosed because it was so pure.“
Harper has been clean for years, and now shares his experience at the Serenity Cafe, an organization that is based between the Scottish Regional Parliament and a series of hobo shelters where thrown syringes are still a problem.
The success of „Trainspotting“, which was based on an Irvine Welsh novel about the neighborhood of Leith in the 1980s, and which marked the leap to the fame of actor Ewan McGregor, unveiled the underworld of Scottish drugs internationally.
The neighborhood is now fashionable, has modern bars and even a restaurant with Michelin stars.
However, some neighbors still live in old gray buildings and fighting their lifelong habit.
– More than 20 years consuming drugs –
David Liddell, director of the Scottish Drugs Forum, an independent organization to combat the problem, explained to AFP how the years and years of abuse are finally happening.
„There are people who have been consuming for 20 years or more, their bodies have resented that continuous drug use and are now more vulnerable to an overdose,“ Liddell said.
„We see how most deaths occur in people over 35 years,“ he added. „In particular, there has been an outbreak of AIDS infections among those who inject drugs“ in that age group.
Liddell estimated that problems with drugs in Scotland have to do with poverty and deprivation, and said that there are 61,500 consumers in the region among a population of 5 million.
Scottish politicians are demanding that rooms be opened to which drug addicts can take their drugs and be given new syringes, but the British government, which is responsible for drug policy, is skeptical.
„Eight European countries, plus Australia and Canada, opened consumer rooms,“ said Ronnie Cowan, deputy of the Scottish National Party (SNP).
„The result was a reduction in the spread of AIDS and hepatitis C, and a decrease in crime, and nobody ever overdosed in a supervised drug use room,“ he added.
But the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, who was interior minister, believes that the authorities have to focus on „people abandoning drugs, do not consume them in the first place, and stay away from them,“ according to his words.