KEVIN Bridges has spoken about losing schoolfriends to drugs and called for decriminalisation as Scotland battles with the highest drug-death rate in Europe.

The comedian spoke about his experiences with drugs and feeling guilty that his life went in a different direction to school mates who struggled with addiction.

It comes as official figures by the National Records of Scotland revealed that 1,330 people died of drug misuse in 2021, the highest drug-death rate in Europe.

Bridges spoke to The Sunday Times ahead of the release of his first novel, The Black Dog.

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Glasgow Times:

The book tells the story of Declan, who dreams of being a writer but falls out with drug-dealing gangsters, and of the actor James Cavani, whose sister’s battle with drug addiction brings him back to a town he thought he had escaped.

The Clydebank-born comic told the Sunday Times he knows people whose lives have been ruined by drugs: “No one in my immediate family but friends definitely.

“A couple of people from school fell by the wayside and a couple of people have been found dead, and those instances were drug-related.

“You see them 15 years on and realise how people can spiral. You go, ‘I remember you and me on a school trip, having a laugh when life seemed so exciting.’

“You feel that kind of guilt that my life went this way and theirs went that way.”

Bridges admitted he smoked cannabis when he was younger, but “never tried cocaine or Ecstasy”, sheltered by the stand-up comedy environment since a young age.

“I am the only person I know who never went through a phase like that,” he added.

“That was down to starting stand-up comedy so young: I was like a child on the circuit. People, other comics, were protective.

“I never went clubbing as I was doing stand-up so the Ecstasy thing passed me by.

“I did dabble with a bit of weed but then never too heavily . . . So I hope my mum and dad read that.”

Glasgow Times:

Bridges started doing stand-up at 17, soon after leaving school, and, by 18, had reached the final of So You Think You’re Funny at the Edinburgh Fringe; making his debut on Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow on BBC1 at 22.

Despite moving to the West End of Glasgow with his wife, Kerry, and baby son, Liam, he can still see the effects of the drug epidemic, he said.

“I have seen this horrible video of a couple of young guys taking the piss out of an addict.

“I remember thinking, ‘this is sad’. What is the story behind it?

“The woman in the video was someone’s sister, a daughter, wife, maybe at some point.

“Why has that person ended up like that? Wanting to find stimulants so strong to block whatever trauma they have been through?

“It made me research addiction a lot more. I treated it with a bit of heart and hope that came through in the book.”

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The book includes a credit to “lifelong friend” Claire Gallagher who works with drug addicts and who advised Bridges on the details in relation of addiction, recovery and healthcare.

Bridges also spoke of the minimum alcohol pricing policy, which saw the price of at least 50p per unit (8g) of pure alcohol set in May 2018 to curb harmful drinking.

According to Bridges, this "terrible policy" would have aggravated the drug crisis.

Glasgow Times: Letters: Minimum pricing only gives the alcohol industry unearned extra profits. We need better solutions

He added: “No one was ever going to say, ‘Right, I can’t afford a bottle of cider so I will take up jogging.’

“[People] will obviously seek other alternatives in their budget to obliterate their trauma.

“I do not know the last time I passed a group on the street sharing a bottle of superstrength cider.

“They have turned to cheaper alternatives, synthetics and all sorts.

“If you see the effect you can get in terms of bang for your buck, if you want to annihilate your mind for the day it looks as though it does the job.

“I was told you can buy a ‘street Valium’ for 50p. To me that is frightening.”

Instead, he thinks drugs should be legalised so that they can be “controlled a lot better”.

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He said: “When I read about a massive haul of drugs seized, I know that people will still be looking for cocaine and heroin and the drugs that made it in.

“They will be cut with whatever agent. You can’t just have supermarkets selling cocaine or heroin, I get that, but I do think drugs should be decriminalised.”

The Black Dog is Bridges’s second book, after his 2014 autobiography, We Need to Talk About Kevin Bridges.

Shortly after, he became burnt out and took a year out to live in Spain and learn Spanish.

Some of his experiences are reflected in the novel, he said.

Glasgow Times: Kevin Bridges performs at the Royal Albert Hall, London, in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday March 24, 2015. Photo credit should read: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire.

“Definitely there are elements of myself in the two characters Declan and James Cavani.

“I grew up in a similar town to Declan, with the same socio-economic problems, I was doing stand-up at night like Declan does creative writing classes. I felt a bit lost; ‘where is my life going to go?’.”

“Watching mates get into relationships and trades, I was still living with my parents . . . Only when I was 23, 24 did it happen for me.

“So a bit of me is in Declan wondering, ‘is this ever going to happen?’.

“James Cavani has made it but . . . ends up bombed out, a bit jaded.

“After my 2015 tour I took a break from stand-up and TV, went to Spain and learnt Spanish, and that is when I found me as a person, if it does not sound too highfalutin.

“I thought, if I kept listening to producers and managers — go to America next, etc . . . I could end up jaded and resentful — like you see in elements of Cavani.

“Declan is where I could have been if things never went well for me, and James is where I could have ended up if I never changed gear.”

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Kevin Bridges’ debut novel The Black Dog is out on August 18.