The drug problem in Scotland is totting up an annual bill of almost £3.5 billion in social costs and money flowing to the black market, according to new Scottish Government research.
Drug costs relating to social factors such as NHS treatment, the criminal justice system and social care amounted to the equivalent of £400,000 an hour.
Addicts collectively spend around £1.4 billion a year feeding their habit, according to the research conducted by the Scottish Government and the information and statistics division of the NHS.
Experts claim these figures, from 2006, confirm Scotland as the drug addiction capital of Europe.
The cost of drugs has now exceeded the economic impact of the country’s drinking culture.
Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing said the two studies provided “the fullest picture ever obtained about the extent of the damage that drug misuse brings to communities”.
He added: “It shows the scale of the problem both in human terms and in financial terms.”
Opposition spokesmen have been calling for more to be done to reverse the problem rather than just contain it.
Labour’s justice spokesman, Richard Baker, described the figures as “simply shocking.”
He said: “It is becoming increasingly clear the SNP are simply not taking action against drug abuse.”
Mr Baker claimed the SNP were investing less money in drug rehabilitation and added: “At a time when drug misuse is increasing, it is wrong to be cutting budgets that are designed specifically to help people kick their addictions.”
Robert Brown, justice spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said: “Ministers must explain why, when we have the facilities for rehabilitation in Scotland, many drug abusers still are not getting the treatment they need.”
John Lamont, for the Conservatives, claimed the research showed the need for a greater emphasis to be put on recovery programmes.
David Liddell, the director of Scottish Drugs Forum, said: “These figures underline all too clearly why we must continue to invest in treatment, focus that investment on the most effective range of treatment, care and rehabilitation services — including in areas like housing, family support and employability, and continue to address the underlying issues of poverty, deprivation and other social and health inequalities.”
Researchers, who carried out the study at the University of Glasgow, also estimated that just over 90 per cent of problem drug addicts in Scotland used heroin, amounting to approximately 50,077 heroin users.
Last year the Scottish Government was criticised for spending increasing amounts of taxpayers’ money giving the heroin substitute methadone to drug addicts, despite Government promises to move away from failed ‘harm reduction’ policies.
Scottish Tory Justice Spokesman, Bill Aitken said: “We should be discouraging people from taking drugs.
“Anything that makes drug-taking more comfortable really is not in the best of interests”.