A YOUTH worker has insisted people must stop demonising drug users if any progress is to be made on reducing the number of deaths.

Last week The Gazette revealed how drug-related deaths in Renfrewshire hit a record high as 50 people lost their life as a result of taking substances last year.

Louise Dempsey founded the charity Youth Interventions, based in Linwood, which aims to use early intervention methods to try to support young people who have turned to drugs before bigger problems develop.

READ MORE: Renfrewshire's drugs death rate hits 'shocking' new record high

And Louise, who also works at a rehab centre in Glasgow, said a greater understanding of the issues behind why young people use drugs was key to bringing down the death toll.

She said: “We cannot be demonising drug users. 

“I work in rehab and most of the people I work with have been through trauma, some more than once. Then, if these people become homeless, that then fuels their sense of helplessnesses and despair.

“If a young person is going through emotional distress, that’s often why they end up using substances. Then it’s not the drugs that are the problem, they’ve used that as the solution. 

“So there’s more going on underneath the drug use and it’s about putting something in place to deal with that.

“Kids also need to understand the things that are going on when they take drugs. If they feel suicidal two days after they snorted cocaine, they need to understand why. 

“I believe if we use early intervention and work with young people and talk to them we can reduce these figures.” 

The drug death toll in Renfrewshire has multiplied more than eight times since records began in 1996, when there were six deaths. 

Heroin was involved in 43 of the 50 deaths last year, while opiates or opoids were present in 46. 

Etizolam and benzodiazepines were also prevalent, having been found in 34 people who died last year.

Louise said she believed there were several issues at play in the modern age which were leading to increased drug deaths.

She added: “The availability of drugs is the first problem. The streets are awash with drugs and if you’re wanting a hit, you can just pick up your mobile phone these days and ring your dealer.

“Then there’s the variety of drugs that are available. There’s lots of different types. 

“And then you’ve got the issue of purity. Some of these drugs are stronger than they have ever been. 

“These figures are incredibly sad but that’s why we started this organisation. 

“I hope our model can make a difference.”

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