NE Fife drugs abuse makes grim reading

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INCIDENTS of drug misuse in north east Fife have risen faster in the past few years than anywhere else in the Kingdom, new statistics have revealed.

Since 2004, the number of drug-related ‘episodes’ in the area has tripled and between 2000 and 2010 there were 36 deaths linked to drugs - representing 13 per cent of the Fife-wide total.

According to the latest report by Louise Bowman of Fife Alcohol and Drugs Partnership, north east Fife still has the lowest rate of drug and alcohol abuse in Fife despite the grim figures.

But she warned that substance misuse problems were likely to be under-reported since people living in rural areas may well attend hospitals in Tayside as they are closer.

Ms Bowman’s report, which was presented to the local area committee on Wednesday, also showed that between 2000 and 2010 there were 221 alcohol-related deaths in north east Fife - 16 per cent of the Kingdom total.

Each year since 2005, there have been some 2000 general acute hospital discharges in Fife relating to alcohol misuse, most of which were emergency admissions and half being at the weekend.

The report also contains statistics compiled by the Scottish Public Health Observatory that show that north east Fife has a higher-than-average population of over 75s and a lower-than-average number of under 16s.

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It’s considered a relatively prosperous area, with unemployment and crime rates lower than the Scottish average and life expectancy higher than average.

Ill-health and injury rates are also lower than the Scottish average, as is the number of psychiatric patients.

The only areas in which north east Fife is considered ‘worse’ than the rest of Scotland are extreme fuel poverty, sporting participation and secondary school attendance rates.

However Ms Bowman’s report refers to large areas of ‘access deprivation’ in north east Fife, meaning that people have farther to travel to facilities such as GP’s surgery, petrol station, post office, shops and schools.

And the document speaks of the ‘hidden harm’ in the area caused by high levels of alcohol consumption in rural areas where it may be seen as culturally acceptable.

“This may result in problem alcohol use going undetected and untreated for many years”, said Ms Bowman.

“Anonymity, for people with substance problems, is an additional issue in locations where everyone knows everyone and where families have grown up for generations.

“It is also important to consider that north east Fife does not have high levels of deprivation or concentrated areas reporting substance misuse, however any escalating problems with substances can often mean that people gravitate to more deprived communities regardless of where the substance misuse problems originated. Numbers and rates of hospital episodes are lower than other parts of Fife and Scotland but nevertheless there are people experiencing problems with substances which impacts negatively on the family and community.”