Tenement stairs turned into legal high drug dens

Jim Orr pictured in a needle-riddled stairwell in Rankeillor Street. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Jim Orr pictured in a needle-riddled stairwell in Rankeillor Street. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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A WAVE of complaints have been made about drug users sneaking into stairwells in the Southside to inject legal highs.

Householders claim tenements near Clerk Street have become a proxy shooting gallery for addicts because they are located near two “head shops” which sell the stimulants and a nearby chemist which provides clean needles.

Politicians have been inundated with complaints from residents, with Rankeillor Street and Montague Street particular hotspots.

Last week, a council report revealed that six users of legal highs – also known as New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) – died in Edinburgh between January and October last year.The substances are putting an increasing strain on NHS services while police are reporting links between usage and “bizarre and violent” behaviour.

The report, due to be discussed in City Chambers today, also notes a “rapid increase” in users mixing the highs with illegal drugs such as heroin before injecting them.

Police confirmed that the main concentrations of NPS use were in Southside, Leith and the city centre.

A Rankeillor Street resident, who asked not to be named, said the practice was “prolific” in Southside stairwells.

“They just don’t care,” they said. “This is a lovely community but I don’t want to see this, it’s unacceptable.”

Southside Newington councillor Jim Orr visited several local stairs yesterday and said he was shocked to see an array of discarded syringes.

He said: “Many residents of the Southside are appalled and genuinely frightened by the regular substance abuse they are witnessing.”

He called for an urgent debate in the Scottish Parliament and multi-agency intervention, however legislative powers lie with Westminster.

Despite their legal status, the chemical powders, often in colourful packaging marked as “not for human consumption”, are a growing health risk.

Edinburgh East MP Sheila Gilmore said: “Banning them isn’t an option because of the sheer number of new substances becoming available each week at tens of shops across Edinburgh. Not only is work needed to find out the extent of this new market, but there is an urgent need for A&E departments and police to report hospital admissions to help all agencies get a better grip of this problem.”

Police have urged householders to ensure the main door to a common stair is kept secure at all times.

Superintendent Matt Richards, of Police Scotland, said: “We are responding to multiple calls each week where local residents are raising the issue as a priority and we are working with partners in the council, NHS and fire service to reduce the harm.”