Easy availability of a wide range of cheap drugs could be the reason why Glasgow has higher drug deaths rates than other large cities, according to a health expert.

Drugs are far cheaper and more choice exists now in Glasgow than in the 1980s, with the average spend of a problem drug user estimated at around £30,000 a year.

Heroin is cheaper now, street valium is cheaper now than temazepam was, and cocaine is widely available, when it was rare more than 30 years ago.

The latest drug death statistics for 2021 are due today but in 2020 the city had 291 deaths, the year before was the latest in a series of record deaths, rising year on year for the previous seven years.

John Campbell, injecting equipment provision manager at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, is responsible for a scheme helping hundreds of drug users prevent infection and overdose.

One of the challenges is understanding why Glasgow, and Scotland, has a higher drug-related death rate than other cities in the UK and Europe.

Mr Campbell said: "Glasgow’s harms are greater than other countries."

The drivers for drug dependency are poverty, deprivation, adverse childhood experiences and trauma, which are all present in other places.

He added: “There is something in this city that that drug harms become much more pronounced.

“One reason could be there is a well-established drug market.”

The high availability keeps prices low.

In 1986, a £10 bag of heroin typically contained 100mg but now a £10 bag contains 200mg.

Temazepam, which caused huge harms in the 1980s, cost around £1.50 a capsule. Now etizolam and street benzodiazepines cost around 12p each. People are buying them in quantities of 50 or 100 at a time.

Cocaine is around £40 for half a gram, when it was not available to most drug users in the 1980s.

Mr Campbell said: “With inflation, heroin should cost £140 for 200g, three benzodiazepines should be £31.

“There has never been a wider range of drugs available.

“We need more engagement with clients and at an earlier stage.

“The services are there to keep people safe and alive until they are able to access treatment.”

The mobile WAND service offers a range of suport to reduce the harms of injecting to try to limit the spread of infection and the risk of overdose.

Glasgow has been dealing with an HIV outbreak due to sharing needles, with a spike in infections in recent years.

Glasgow Times:

The initiative is a healthcare intervention. It provides wound care and assessment of injecting risk. Everyone who attends leaves with a naloxone kit and offers of dry blood spot testing.

The service has reached 831 individuals in the year from September 2020 and August 2021, providing 1028 assessments.

Mr Campbell said the main aim is to reduce injecting harms and link into treatment like opioid replacement therapy like methadone.

The service is aimed at the city centre injecting population with people encouraged to access the service every three to four months.

Those who take part also get a £20 voucher each time they attend.