Scotland’s Valium Crisis | Drugs Map of Britain

When did you first take Valium? When I was about 13 years old. People continue to mix drugs
and take substances like diazepam. They’re dying. HE COUGHS Do you want me to pop you down?
I’ve got you, I’ve got you. Watch yourself. The last time I seen him, he was
like a skeleton with a skin graft. Diazepam’s always been around
and it’s always been consistent. Scotland’s little helper.
Yes, Scotland’s little helper, yeah. Whilst alcohol, ecstasy and heroin
have historically been at the centre of Scotland’s drug scene,
Valium has been a silent partner, hard at work in the background, with many users craving
a tranquilised existence. It’s 10.15am
and Jamie is calling his dealer. Hi, mate, cool.
Eh, what, a score, mate, a score. Nae worries mate, that sounds ideal.
Cheers mate, sweet. It’s like your…
it’s your favourite kind of sweetie. It tastes like that. He has a Valium addiction and, like thousands of
other people in Scotland, he doesn’t get the pills
from his doctor. He buys them from a local dealer. Do you want to show us
what you got then? Aye. So, how many’s in there? It’s ten, ten in each strip. Yeah. But you bought 20? Aye, aye, that’s why,
when I said a score, that means 20. How much does 20 cost? £20. Aye, that’s breakfast. All right? Yes, go. Excuse me. Would you consider yourself
to be dependent on Valium? At the moment, aye, yeah. It fills that emptiness and
it feels like it’s your own shield. You’re wrapped in bubble wrap and
things don’t really matter as much. But then again, the problem’s
still there in the morning, if you’re willing
to just not address it. But they certainly do help
and calm the stresses of life. Scotland has a big problem with
Valium, otherwise known as diazepam. 76% of drug-related deaths involve
the pills, or drugs similar to them, compared to figures in England
and Wales of just 11%. Right. In Dundee, there has been
a recent spate of overdoses involving
the once widely prescribed drug. It wasn’t long before I met Billy,
who explained to me the wide range of pills
available on the street. Right, so that’s MTZ,
so what are these pills like? How much are these each? So that’s 50p per pill? Is the going rate, basically. Aye. It was clear from talking to Billy that not all the blue pills on
the street contain genuine Valium. Many of them were fake. I met Kenny Simpson
at Police Scotland who has made tackling the Valium
issue a priority. He showed me
a range of fake Valium tablets recovered from raids
on DIY drug factories. This is just a sample
of a large seizure of tablets that have been illicitly produced. We’ve had seizures of
a million tablets in one operation, so that reflects the scale
of what’s actually out there. The main issues are twofold. The illicit production
of the tablets, which brings with it the concerns
that it’s not pharmacists. And then the serious and organised
crime involvement in diverting blister pack tablets
from lawful production. Probably one of the most
understated drugs and has been
for a long number of years. The users can be quite ambivalent
about what the outcome is in terms of their health. But if people continue
to mix drugs and take substances like diazepam,
or the equivalent, they’re dying. Many of these blue pills contain
Valium-like drugs far stronger, and potentially more dangerous, than
whatever users think they’re buying. Back in Dundee, I met a user
named Levi and his friend AJ. They’d known each other
since Levi was young. The whole time he’d been
addicted to Valium. Levi was heading home to take some
blue pills he’d recently bought. Did you put them in the kinder egg? Aye, aye. The pills Levi was taking looked
very similar to the fake tablets I’d seen at the police station. They had NTZ stamped on them
and were sold loose. When you moved to Dundee, did you find that Valium was
very easily available? Wow. When did you first take Valium? How old are you now? Would you usually take 30, 40 Valium
as well as smoking legal highs and taking methadone? Yes. OK. That’s not unusual. Like many users,
Levi was taking Valium with a combination of other drugs. This can be particularly dangerous, and the effects were
really starting to show. HE SLURPS You’re jerking a bit, mate. Do you
want me to help you pick that up? Pop it on the floor.
Pop it on the floor. Um… HE LAUGHS Sorry, mate, just really surprised
me then, came out of nowhere. Well, you could say that.
THEY LAUGH HE MUMBLES As we continued to chat,
there were moments when it became difficult
to understand Levi. HE SLURS He’d have moments of clarity
and then drop off. I thought you fell asleep then. HE COUGHS LABORIOUSLY Do you want to pop you down?
I’ve got you, I’ve got you. Watch yourself. Watch yourself. How are you feeling? I’ll just put this out
so it doesn’t burn the carpet. You’ve got a Bible over there.
Yeah, yeah. You’re Christian? Mm. LEVI MUMBLES That kind of smells like
it might be burning. LEVI MUMBLES I’ll tell you what, it’s amazing. Mm-hm. Would you like to stop
taking Valium? Yeah. THEY LAUGH Levi was shutting himself off
from the world to avoid getting into trouble
whilst high on Valium – the very drug he used to deal
with loneliness and isolation. Valium has been widely prescribed
for anxiety and depression since the ’60s. However, in the late ’80s,
doctors started to scale this back because so many patients
developed addictions. Gareth Balmer has worked
to help drug users for ten years
at the charity Addaction. He explained to me why Scotland has
such a big problem with Valium. Like lots of things
it was seen as a bit of a panacea. I mean this is not a Scottish thing,
this is a worldwide thing. And they work. And so they were prescribed,
but nobody really saw the problems. Because when they were first sold,
not addictive. I think you can find adverts,
you know, there’s this new great drug,
it’s not addictive, it’s not like the barbiturates
or some of these other drugs that are dangerous,
it’s going to be great. They were wrong, it was
dependence-producing or addictive. And interestingly has
a really quite severe withdrawal. How many pills, what kind of doses
are people taking that you’re seeing
coming into the service? It’s not abnormal for somebody
to be taking 30, 40 a day. If you take a drug every day,
you build tolerance to that drug. Like a lot of medicines,
the longer you take something, the less effective
it tends to become. You tend to see
more of the negative side effects and less of the positive effects
of the drugs over a long period of time.
And a lot of people using drugs, they’re always chasing that feeling
that they’ll never get back. Why is there such a high use
of Valium in Scotland? We are famous for caring about
our money in Scotland, so, you know, £10 rock of crack, smoke it, you’ll be stimulated
for 10, 15 minutes. It’ll feel good. For the same price, I could have
100mg of diazepam where you can escape from your
reality for the next couple of days. Diazepam’s always been around,
and it’s always been consistent. Scotland’s little helper.
Yes, Scotland’s little helper, yes. Do you think the rise of
drug-related deaths in Scotland is connected to the extensive
use of Valium on the street? I would say, on its own,
no, it’s not. Unfortunately, when people
are dying from drug death, overdose in Scotland,
it’s poly-drug use. It’s Valium plus alcohol,
it’s Valium plus heroin, it’s Valium plus methadone. So, when it’s used in combination
with those drugs, yes, it is dangerous and it is
implicated in those deaths, from our perspective. Normally what’s happened to people
is they’re becoming so relaxed that their brain just stops
telling them to breathe any more. Gareth put me in touch with
Jo Roden, whose son, John, had died after taking the tablets,
aged 32. Like Levi, and many other users, John had mixed Valium
with methadone. Jo took me to the flat where John’s
body had been found three years ago. This is wee John’s house in the
first tenement there on the top. Have you been down here since? No. You’ve not been down since? No. Do you find yourself kind of craning
round when you pass in the car? I didn’t look. If it’s a coping mechanism or what,
I don’t know. Nice place he lived in,
nothing the matter with it, it’s just where he died. It’s only a house. He’s no there. I didn’t really want to look at it,
but that’s it. Cos it’s the same blinds. Does that haunt you, that?
Yes, cos I broke them. Cos when I’d went in,
the police had the blinds down, like the way they are now. And I tried to pull them up
and the string came away and I grabbed at them
and I broke them. So… Know what I mean, that’s where
he died sitting on his sofa. It’s hard to believe. You know. It is. Jo, mate, come here. THEY CHUCKLE Are there a lot of people
in the wider community who’ve lost people to Valium
as well? Yes, definitely yes. At least one a month. How many people do you personally
know who’ve lost people to… Personally? Valium overdoses? Five. Five personally? And that’s
all in the last few years? Yes. Last year. In the last year? Yeah. Jo’s close friend Caroline lost
her brother Shaun to an overdose involving Valium four years ago. Everything like, my wee brother, it was just like a hit
in the face for me. He was the baby,
I never expected it from him. You seen him and you seen that
he was getting worse and worse. And the last time I seen him he was
like a skeleton with a skin graft. Mmm. It was like you could see
his bones right through his skin. It was horrible. Do you ever really think about maybe
why your brother took drugs? I can’t understand how he started. I think at first they think
they can control their drug intake, but they can’t,
the drugs take over, don’t they? And that’s hard,
that’s hard for us to live with. You’re angry at people
that are making them, you’re angry at people that are
sending them, you just get angry. And then it’s all sadness. You’re angry at them
for taking them… but they took them for a reason and I think it’s
to escape from your reality. I mean,
it didn’t matter what I said to him. Didn’t matter what anybody
said to him, know what I mean? And…then…’ve just got to…… It’s just a downward spiral,
isn’t it? Rather than an upward struggle,
it’s a downward spiral, isn’t it? Mm. Earlier on, I promised Levi
I would pop back to see him. However, when I got to his flat,
he seemed pretty out of it. I met with Levi’s friend AJ, who’d
previously been his drug worker. She decided to visit him when she’d heard about the cocktail
of drugs that he’d been taking. Levi, it’s AJ! It’s AJ, man.
Get a grip of yourself, kid. Check your eyes. Yeah, you have. You’ve took two strips, haven’t you? See, see what I mean? Don’t lie
to me, don’t lie to me, Levi. 20 what? What do you want? Do you know where you should be?
Where I am. You can’t cope on your own, Levi. The way you are now. LEVI MUMBLES You know what I’m going to
say to you, don’t you, Levi? Yes. The doctor.
Get the fucker cleaned up now. Get you fucking cleaned up
and get your head sorted. Get your finger out your arse, mate. Don’t do what everybody else
is doing around you and do what you want to do. I have never ever
seen your flat like this before. I’ve seen you in this state.
Worse than this. But I’ve never seen your flat
like this, please, I… You know, if that lad didn’t come for me
tonight and I didn’t see you, d’you know what would happen? No.
I’d be looking for you in Dundee. For you. That’s me. Worried about you, but again… you cannot kid a kidder. Been there and done it myself. No, man. Exactly. I know someone who works… LEVI MUMBLES Please don’t smoke that
in front of me. That legal high. Please,
I don’t take it myself, so… Thank you. Whoa, Levi man! Ha’way, son. Ha’way. Put your head together, kidda. Give your head a shake. Levi, man. Pull yourself together, kidda. He’s had a bereavement. He had two when I was working
with him and obviously he’s had another one since I haven’t been working
with him. So that’s three
in the last four year. You know, so that is quite a thing
on his head, playing. And he hasn’t grieved over it. He hasn’t. I don’t like seeing you like this,
you know. I’d like to boot you up the arse
and get you into gear. Sorry…sorry for swearing. Don’t be daft. But that’s how I feel like doing. I do, but I can’t. So I know you’re going
to be all right. No, just to know that I know
that you’re going to be all right. How many have you bought today? In a bag? So you’ve took 30 today. Yeah? You’ve took 20 today, darling.
Are you going to be all right? Yes, honestly. I do worry about you, darling. I do. I do worry about you, I do. I’m all right, I’m spot on. I need to know…
What you up to now? He won’t know. He’s just picking
all his legal high wrappers up. I can’t believe you.
You little shithead. Hang them up now. Rosary beads, hang them up. You against Lord? I need… What’s your smoke alarm
doing on the floor? Is he going to be all right to
leave, are you happy to leave him? Yes, I’m happy to leave him
cos he’s… Sound as a pound. He’s sound as a pound,
he knows, he’s talking to me. You know,
he’s opened his eyes like he is now. There with a smile on the face,
you know. I know he’s happy. Right, I’m going anyway, big boy. I love you and leave you,
you know. I do. I’m leaving my spirit in this room
to look after you. Where’s the bin chute? Right outside your door? Yeah. It wants to be, you know.
I’m not going up all those stairs. THEY LAUGH Coming to Dundee,
I had half expected to find people high on Valium having a good time. But the reality was very different. Valium is a lonely drug, offering only a temporary escape
from life’s problems. You need to sort out deprivation.
Unfortunately in Scotland, we have some real
poverty-stricken communities. So I can sit with somebody and
we can really engage with somebody, but unfortunately
they’ve got to go home. I went to meet Levi the next day
to see how he was doing. How many Valium tablets
did you take yesterday? Probably about 100 eventually. So that… Is that a normal amount
for you to take in a day? Yeah. Look, I was on 230 tablets a day and I was still walking around
like it was no tomorrow. Walking around like
it was no tomorrow? Like there was no tomorrow. It could knock a horse out, man. But Levi just wanders along
like there’s nowt the matter. No problem. Do you worry about your health? No. Why? Why bother about health? It’s all you’ve got. We all die some point. I know, but it’s all you’ve got
until that happens. When that happens, it happens. I’m not saying
I want to die early, by any chance, I want a nice long life. But, please believe, I’ve had
some funny old life me, yeah. If I went tomorrow,
it doesn’t matter. What, I mean,
do you want to come off Valium? You want to stop taking Valium.
Yeah. Do you consider yourself
to be addicted? Yes. Everyone has choices in their life
to do right or wrong. It’s up to them to make that choice. Time to start looking for a job
and stuff. Start, um…becoming back
into society and, um, working hard. Like I used to. Used to do voluntary work
and everything and I’m just going through
a blip at the minute. What would you say to people
about Valium as someone who’s had a lot of
close personal experience with it? She can be the loveliest woman
in the world and she can be
the most evilest cow in the world. What, Valium can? Yeah. She can be amazing
and she can be… She can be the god
and she can be the devil. I’ll get mine, yeah. Hello, there. HE TALKS TO THE WAITRESS I’m good enough to come in here… You’ve been very helpful, thank you. No problem.

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