Charity slams Scotland’s “dangerous self delusion” as drug deaths soar

Crop heroin

Country's opinion of itself needs reappraised in wake of massive rise in drug-related deaths

16th July 2019 by Robert Armour 3 Comments

Scotland is suffering from “dangerous self-delusion” a leading charity has warned - as new figures reveal the country is in the grip of a drug death epidemic.

Official statistics show 1,187 people died from drugs last year – a 27% increase on the previous year and the highest figure of any EU country.

It means drugs overtook alcohol-related deaths in Scotland last year and means it has a higher drug death rate than that reported for the US, which was previously thought to be the highest rate in the world.

David Liddell, chief executive of the Scottish Drugs Forum, warned that the deaths are a wake-up call and show the country’s opinion of itself as an equalities and rights-based society is flawed.

He hit out: “The latest drug deaths statistics again suggest that Scotland’s sense of itself as inclusive may be dangerous self-delusion. 

“NHS patients are receiving treatment that does not meet standards laid out in national and international good practice guidance. With any other patient group, this would rightly be regarded as both scandalous and a national priority for action.”

He added: “These figures raise serious concerns about the response we are making to people who have a problem involving heroin or other opiates.

“Of particular concern is the extent of deaths involving methadone. The figures released today show that 560 (47%) of the deaths involved methadone.”

The vast majority of drug-related deaths - 1,021 - involved heroin, but a large percentage - 792 - had also taken pills such as diazepam and etizolam.

The 35-44 age group was associated with the most deaths at 442, followed by those aged 45-54 (345).

The Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board area had the highest number of deaths at 394, followed by Lothian (152), Lanarkshire (130) and Tayside (109).

But the report said that the problem was "clearly very widespread" across the whole country.

Public health minister Joe FitzPatrick said Scotland now faces a national emergency. Earlier this month, he appointed Professor Catriona Matheson as chair of a new taskforce which will advise on what further changes, in practice or in law, could help save lives and reduce harm.

“The number of people who have lost their lives because of drug use is shocking. It is vital this tragedy is treated as a public health issue, and we are prepared to take innovative and bold measures in order to save the lives of those most at risk.”

Chair of the Drug Deaths Taskforce, professor Catriona Matheson, said: “My thoughts go out to the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones.

“These figures bring the scale of the problem we face in Scotland into sharp focus. The need for urgent action is clear and the taskforce gives us a mechanism to do that.”

16th July 2019 by Ro Bell

Mr Liddel is correct to challenge the delivery of Health care around drug treatment. However, there is a bigger context, there is little point attacking Holyrood when at every step attempts to decriminalise and make provision for users we as a nation are thwarted by Westminster imposing an imperial control.We live with austerity, poverty wages, uncertainty and DWP which uses Draconian rules to punish people rather than support.To solve the drugs crisis we need control of all our social levers to be able to address this as a health crisis without criminalising and marginalising users.

16th July 2019 by Eric Sinclair

It is puzzling to me that we have the same drug laws north and south of the border, yet the tragedy of drug death statistics is much worse here. Why is that?

17th July 2019 by Leslie

What we don’t have is a group run by and for users. SDF represents services, not users. They get millions of pounds for years but all we get is death. Where are we in this? They are all part of the problem and they just profit from us. They get more money and we get more death cos no one is speaking for us. If you want to change deaths then change that.