Nearly a third of drug users seeking help in the north-east started taking illegal substances under the age of 15, new statistics have revealed.
The information published by ISD Scotland yesterday gathered data from the Scottish Drug Misuse Database (SDMB).
The database was set up in 1990 to collect information about people in Scotland registered with specialist services over the 2018-19 period.
It shows that of the 1,262 people registered in Grampian, 432 people began using illegal substances under the age of 15.
The region had the third highest number of people prescribed methadone with 454 prescriptions compared to 579 in Glasgow and 498 in Lothian.
Heroin was listed as the most common illegal drug taken in the north-east with 558 people registered as using the opiate drug.
There were 539 people registered taking crack cocaine or cocaine and 428 who had been using diazepam.
In Aberdeen 95 of 624 people referred themselves for specialist help, while 349 referred from health services such as GPs and 146 were through the criminal justice service.
And in Aberdeenshire, 375 individuals out of 545 people were self referrals, 72 came from health services, 47 from the criminal justice service and 19 from the social work department.
An NHS Grampian spokesman said: “The management of drug misuse is complex. Drug misuse rarely exists on its own, for many people it sits alongside poor mental health, homelessness, financial difficulty, social exclusion and stigma.
“With help and support, people who use substances, and the loved ones who are affected, can recover.
“We would encourage anyone who is concerned about themselves or a loved one to get in touch with our services.
“Recovery from drug dependence is not easy but it is possible. There are no long waiting times to be seen.”
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North-east Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald added: “These figures confirm that the drugs crisis continues, in the north-east and across Scotland.
“It also confirms the strong link between drug misuse and other crisis situations in people’s lives, such as homelessness.
“Scotland sadly has the highest proportion of drugs deaths in western Europe, and it is vital that the Scottish and UK governments work urgently on reducing that grim toll.”
A report into drug-related deaths from the Aberdeenshire Alcohol and Drug Partnership (ADP), is due to be heard at the local licensing forum.
Wayne Gault, an ADP representative, said in the report: “While there is a significant and growing risk of death in an ageing cohort of long-experienced drug-users, we also see novice users in the death stats.
“Young people in Aberdeenshire have told us that alcohol and drugs are their biggest concerns in Aberdeenshire.
“I would like to discuss with the forum the idea that occasional alcohol licences for music festivals and big public events be contingent on the requirement to provide harm reduction advice to everyone who purchases a ticket.
“Organisers could achieve this by sending harm reduction messages to their customers email address, including it on the sales ticket, having posters displayed in the showground or inviting organisations to provide a harm reduction booth.”
The report will be discussed by councillors next week.