POLICE are to roll out a drug testing drive after finding traces of cocaine in 70 per cent of pub toilets tested during an operation.
Officers said they were “surprised” at the level of usage in pubs after ten tests were carried out in pubs in Penicuik and Roslin as part of Operation Eucalyptus.
Surfaces in cubicles were wiped with specially-treated tissue which turns blue when traces of the class-A drug are detected.
The results are worse than those recently found in Musselburgh, Prestonpans and Tranent, where only eight out of 21 pubs were found with traces of the drug.
Inspector Neil Simpson said having knowledge of the extent of the problem would aid in the crackdown on drugs across the region.
He told the Evening News: “We have intelligence about drug usage in the area, but wanted to test every pub in a small area to give us an idea of the extent of the problem.
“We identified these swabs about six months ago, had a trial on these pubs on December 30 and were quite amazed when so many came back positive.
“It’s clear that where cocaine was once regarded as a more socially upmarket drug, today it is used by the sections of general public, normal working people.”
He added: “The female toilets came back more positive than the males, which was very surprising and something we’ll examine.
“We already have the resources to tackle drug use but knowledge like this will allow us to focus our operations.”
Inspector Simpson said that most landlords were co-operative, although some were not aware of what had been going on or had turned a blind eye.
He added: “We’re going to go back and test all of the premises in the area and give the landlords information as to how best to deter users on their premises.
“Lothian and Borders Police is committed to ensuring the public in Midlothian can enjoy a safe and secure night out in the county’s various licensed premises and anyone found to be responsible for any criminal activity within will be robustly dealt with.”
The scheme is the first police have carried out in the area so it is not clear if the results point to a rise or fall in usage. However, the 2009-10 Scottish Drug Misuse Database revealed that 17 per cent of cocaine users presenting themselves as patients for the first time lived in the NHS Lothian area.
Martin Bonnar, manager of the Midlothian and East Lothian Drugs and Alcohol Partnership, said some drug users were under the impression that cocaine is a safe drug.
He said: “Cocaine is not the safe, glamorous party drug that some people think it is. It can lead to some very serious health problems, in addition to the danger of becoming addicted to the drug.
“Immediate effects from its use can include an increased heart rate, palpitations, sweating and chest pain. Users can also become agitated and anxious, which can turn into panic or paranoia.
“Cocaine use can also increase the chances of having a heart attack or stroke.”