Drug deaths in Scotland reach all-time high

Campaigners and politicians have called for a new strategy on drug use in Scotland, after figures revealed that nearly a thousand Scots died of drug abuse last year.

The figures, released by the National Records of Scotland, show that 934 people died due to drug-related causes in 2017, an increase of eight per cent from 2016. This is the third year in a row in which drug deaths have continued to climb.

Despite existing drug-use prevention strategies in Scotland, more than ten thousand people have died since records started being collected in 1996, with deaths doubling in the last ten years.

A third of fatalities were in the Greater Glasgow area, with Lothian, Lanarkshire and Tayside all heavily affected.

A disproportionate amount of the deaths came as a result of heroin and methadone, a substitute for substance for heroin, which critics have argued is a flawed replacement for those seeking treatment to long-standing heroin addiction.

The figures showed that methadone use was involved in 439 deaths, while heroine or morphine were implicated in a further 470. In total, around 87 per cent of deaths involved some form of opiates.

The Scottish government’s public health minister, Joe FitzPatrick offered his “deepest condolences” to the families affected, and promised to update the existing drug strategy in order to “prevent others from experiencing similar heartbreak”.

FitzPatrick told reporters that: “The new strategy will take a person-centred approach so that treatment and support services address people’s wider health and social needs, such as mental health, employability and homelessness.”

Commenting on the figures, Scottish Labour's Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said that it was undeniable that “Scotland's drug strategy has failed.”

"These are absolutely shocking figures that should be a wake-up call for the SNP government.” he said. “The fact that drugs deaths in Scotland are two and half times the rate of the rest of the  UK is particularly troubling – as is the more than 200 per cent rise in the number of women dying from drug-related causes.

Sarwar also hit out at the SNP’s record on funding for addiction services, saying: “The SNP government has slashed alcohol and drug partnership funding at a time when drug deaths were hitting record levels.

"I urge the SNP Government to have the courage to take a different course to ensure this shameful record is reversed."

 

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