Scotland in grip of drug death crisis


Urgent action needs to be taken as new figures show huge rise in drug deaths 

15th August 2017 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Campaigners have called for urgent action after a record amount of drug deaths were recorded in Scotland.

Deaths caused by drugs rose 23% last year to 867 - up from 706 in 2015 and double the number recorded a decade ago.

The latest figures were revealed by the National Records of Scotland (NTS).

Dave Liddell, Scottish Drugs Forum chief executive, said the country urgently needed to rethink its policies as the situation had become a “national tragedy.”

He said: “The fatal drug overdose deaths are personal tragedies for the individuals and their families, and clearly of a scale which is a national tragedy that requires a fundamental rethink of our approach. 

“Other countries have achieved a reduction in overdose deaths by ensuring that people are appropriately retained in high-quality treatment and we must aspire to do the same.” 

Opioids like heroin, morphine and methadone were involved in 765 deaths last year, while 176 involved cocaine, ecstasy or amphetamines such as speed.

The majority of deaths involved more than one drug and alcohol was also a factor, implicated in about one in 10 fatalities.

Heroin and morphine were involved in more deaths in 2016 than in any previous year.

Justina Murray, chief executive of Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs, said the number would be even higher if not for the efforts families are making in keeping their loved ones safe and alive.

She added: “We do not know the total number of families who will be dealing with drug-related loss and grief as nobody collects or publishes these statistics, but we know there will be many.

“This includes many who will be going without support and the opportunity to grieve due to the stigma, loneliness and isolation which are linked to drug-related bereavement.”

About 76% of people who died last year were aged 35 or older. The average age was 41.

About 30% of deaths were in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS board area, 15% in Lothian and 13% in Lanarkshire.

Fatal drug overdose deaths are personal tragedies for the individuals and their families - Dave Liddell

Aileen Campbell, minister for public health said: “We are dealing with a very complex problem in Scotland - a legacy of drugs misuse stretching back decades.

"What we are seeing is an ageing group of people who are long term drugs users.

“They have a pattern of addiction which is very difficult to break, and they have developed other chronic medical conditions as a result of this prolonged drugs use.

“There are no easy solutions but we recognise that more needs to be done.

“This is why I recently announced a refresh of our drugs strategy in response to the changing landscape we are seeing.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said the figures were "shocking".

"The Scottish Government slashed funding to drug and alcohol partnerships by more than 20%," he said.

"Valuable local facilities have shut their doors. It is even clearer now that this was completely the wrong decision."