It’s often seen as a recreational party drug, but cocaine is destroying lives across Dundee in rapidly increasing numbers.
More than 50 people in the city have already reached out to Addaction Dundee for support this year – soaring from just 20 people in 2017.
And the city’s publicans have warned they are losing a “never-ending” battle to stop weekend punters taking cocaine in their toilets.
David Glass, president of the Dundee Licensed Trade Association, said the drug had become a “lifestyle” choice that people from all backgrounds, including middle-class professionals, were choosing to take in pubs.
Some users snorting the powder on weekends can end up escalating their spending on the drug to as much as £200 per day, racking up large debts very quickly.
And a spike in its potency over the last few years, with no price change, is pulling many young people quickly into the grips of addiction and a life of chaos.
Dave Barrie, Addaction Dundee’s service manager, said: “Young people are going out in Dundee and seeing people using cocaine in toilets.
“It’s so widespread it’s becoming normalised.
“Cocaine is easily accessible, highly addictive and very expensive – those three things together make it dangerous.”
Mr Barrie explained users of other drugs spend about £40 daily on substances, but cocaine users can easily spend £100-£200 a day. He said: “It’s a very greedy drug, so people rack up tens of thousands of pounds in debt quickly.
“Because it’s an illicit market, the dealer might be happy to keep supplying the drug without being paid and when it comes to time to pay, the user is made to sell drugs to pay off their debt.”
Mr Barrie said most users start dabbling in cocaine once a month or so, but with some it creeps into a daily occurrence and that’s when things start to get out of control.
He added: “Cocaine opens a door to a life of crime and violence.
“There is no happy ending – it’s misery and the sort of destruction that goes with any addiction.
“You either end up in prison, dead, or desperately seeking help from services such as ours and spending years rebuilding a life that years of addiction has destroyed.”
He said by the time clients come to him for support they are already in huge debt after struggling alone for years.
Many have held down jobs while addicted but most end up losing their employment, and their family lives and relationships suffer greatly.
Mr Barrie said: “Cocaine has a dramatic effect on the user, causing irritability, lack of sleep, spending lots of money – their behaviour is all over the place.
“This has a major impact on their relationships with their families. They reject other more important priorities such as children, their own health, not eating well, not sleeping well – put all that together and it becomes a big problem.
“They are not setting out to lead a life of chaos and crime but it just creeps up and drugs end up feeling like they are the solution.”
Mr Glass, who also owns Doc Ferry’s pub, said: “Cocaine use in Dundee pubs is a problem.
“It certainly has become normalised, with all types of people using.
“Pub staff do need to look out for it and the best way to do so is keeping an eye on public toilets and spaces, making sure they are tidy and regularly checked.
“This will minimise the numbers of people being able to take cocaine, but at the end of the day if someone decides to take it, they will.
“It is a lifestyle choice that more and more people are getting mixed up with.”
A spokesman for Police Scotland said: “Drugs are a problem for communities right across Scotland and Dundee is no different in that regard.
“We continue to work alongside our partners and communities to tackle the issue of drugs, through intelligence gathering and enforcement as part of the ongoing Operation Slate.”