Youngsters see hard drugs as obvious alternative to alcohol, report finds


Shetland’s rural location has led to an increase in dependence on class A drugs, according to a report to drug and alcohol services.

A failure among youngsters to recognise a moral difference between drink and drugs means more people over the age of 16 actively choose illegal drugs if they are unable to find sufficient drink supplies.

The report has been written by independent consultant and former community education worker Penny Armstrong, who surveyed over 100 teenagers as well as parents, teachers and health professionals.

She said peer pressure and boredom often led to young people turning to drink or drugs, while the island’s isolated nature meant they would consume harder drugs such as heroin if supplies of softer drugs like cannabis were unavailable.

Her findings have been compiled in a report for the Community and Alcohol Drugs Service Shetland (CADSS), and she recommends a joint approach involving education and an increase in access to services to combat the problem.

The report comes just weeks after official figures from Northern Constabulary revealed heroin was increasingly the substance of choice among drug abusers in Shetland.

“Although there is little evidence of illegal drug use in mainstream under 16-year-olds, there is concern that young people no longer accept the older generation view of drugs being different to alcohol,” her report says.

“For generations the substance of choice has been alcohol. However, as attitudes change, illegal drug use has increased and second and third generation drug users are now presenting at services with substance-related problems.”

The report added the choice of illegal drugs was limited due to the isolated nature of Shetland.

“Where policing tackles the influx of illegal drugs … type and quantity will be limited to that which is worth the supplier’s risk,” the report says.

“Unfortunately the most financially lucrative are the class A, dependency forming drugs, such as heroin.”

She said her study found youngsters under the age of 16 predominantly stayed away from drugs and alcohol.

However once over that age they increasingly responded to peer pressure.

The report also found youngsters were sourcing drink from home, often emulating parents or adults around them. “Alcohol abuse was the biggest concern from young people to professionals. Some young people were often saying they started drinking in the house, that they were gaining access to alcohol from older family members, parents or they were stealing it out of the house.

“But they also felt they were just following in footsteps. This is what happens in Shetland. This is what you do. You just go out and get drunk.

“Young people are clearly drinking a lot and emulating adults. But young people today don’t seem to be recognising a difference between alcohol and illegal drug use. They are using both illegal drugs and alcohol for socialising purposes, and if they can’t get one they will use another.”


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.