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Saturday, 23 August 2014

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Carlisle is a heroin hotspot - police

Carlisle has been labelled a heroin “hotspot” and criminal gangs have been blamed for west Cumbria’s amphetamine issues, as new figures reveal the true scale of the county’s drug problems.

Andy Slattery photo
Detective Superintendent Andy Slattery

Data released to the News & Star highlights the devastating pattern of drug use in the county, as well as clearly defining the drug of choice for different areas.

While heroin addiction is at shocking levels within the Carlisle area, organised crime gangs are being blamed for the number of people seeking help for amphetamine addiction in west Cumbria.

The figures come from Unity, the county’s drug and alcohol recovery service, and look at the people they treated between September 2012 and August 2013.

While each referral is ranked under a primary drug – such as cocaine, heroin or alcohol – the service says that most people they treat also have issues with secondary substances.

Of the 319 new referrals in Carlisle, 178 were for alcohol abuse and 141 were for drugs.

Heroin accounted for 93 referrals, with other opiates such as buprenorphine counting for 10. Cannabis provided the second highest number of referrals, with 12.

The revelations came as no shock to the professionals on the frontline of drug work within Cumbria.

Cate Meagher, Carlisle team manager for Unity, said: “This doesn’t surprise me, because Carlisle is a city – albeit a small one.

“You get lots of transient people going through Carlisle, and heroin is a transient drug.”

Asked why heroin use appears to so far outstrip other drugs, Ms Maegher added: “I don’t know, perhaps it is easier to score heroin [in a city like Carlisle]?”

Detective Superintendent Andy Slattery continued: “From our work on seizures and drug-related arrests we do see Carlisle as a heroin hotspot – with Barrow in second.

“The patterns shown in these figures follow our intelligence around where drug supply is.”

The same statistics show that the drug problem in the Eden area is far lower, with the number of people seeking help for alcohol addiction outstripping those needing drug treatment by 10 to one.

In fact, the treatment for drugs is divided in the district, with cannabis, cocaine and heroin all having similar numbers of referrals.

Detective Superintendent Slattery said that established dealers in Carlisle are sourcing the illegal substances from couriers in Liverpool and surrounding areas.

The officer agreed with the apparent distribution of drug use around the county, adding that the main problems in west Cumbria centre around the use of amphetamines, methamphetamines, and cocaine, brought in by members of organised crime gangs.

The figures echo this, revealing that the use of amphetamines and cannabis is higher in Allerdale and Copeland than any other district in the county.

Of the 154 new drug referrals made within the two districts over the last 12-months, 23 people were seeking help for amphetamine abuse.

A further 25 were trying to overcome their cannabis use.

The two west Cumbrian regions also saw more referrals than all the other districts combined for so-called legal highs.

Labelled “novel psychoactive substances”, the category includes former so-called legal highs such as mephedrone.

There were four new referrals for this type of drug in both Allerdale and in Copeland, compared with a total of seven in Eden, Carlisle, South Lakeland and Barrow combined.

Allerdale also has a high percentage of people battling heroin addiction, with 38 new referrals – Copeland had 17.

Det Supt Slattery continued: “It is a concern there are that many people seeking help and we know there are many more drug users who don’t seek help.

“But it is positive that people do feel able to come forward to get help. The more people who do the better it is because when they receive treatment it helps break the cycle of offending linked to drug use.”

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