Drug-related deaths in Scotland double in a decade

Written by Tom Freeman on 3 July 2018 in News

Overdose rates soar in Scotland to over twice the rate of UK drug deaths

Heroin syringe - Kevin Karns

Drug-related deaths in Scotland have increased to their highest level, official records have shown.

There were 934 drug-related deaths registered in Scotland in 2017, an eight per cent increase on the previous year and double that of 2007, according to the National Records of Scotland.

The rate is over double that of the UK as a whole.

Heroin, morphine and methadone are thought to account for around 87 per cent of the total.

The Scottish Government is currently drafting a new drugs strategy, to update the ‘Road to Recovery’ document launched in 2008.

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick offered “deepest condolences” to the families of victims.

“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,” he said.

Scottish Conservative public health spokeswoman Annie Wells said the new strategy needed to be “radical and urgent”.

“Not one that waves the white flag in the face of drug dealers and those who profit from this despicable industry, but one that gets tough on the issue,” she said.

“We need to help vulnerable people beat the habit once and for all, not park them on methadone just to watch them die from that very substance years later.

“People are sick of the drugs scourge in Scotland which is massively worse than anywhere else in Europe.

“By working together, all parties in the Scottish Parliament need to contribute to a new strategy that can start turning this appalling situation around.”

Labour’s Neil Findlay also called for a cross-party approach.

“Drugs policy in Scotland is an abject failure, we have to change direction,” he said.

“This is completely unacceptable - we should work across parties to end the deaths of our fellow Scots.”

Scottish Greens justice spokesman John Finnie said the idea of a “war on drugs” was doomed.

“We cannot shy away from a discussion on decriminalisation, as most drug use should be tackled as a public health issue rather than a crime,” he said.

David Liddell, chief executive of Scottish Drugs Forum, said the strategy should focus on prevention and the presumption to a right to life.

“The deaths we are grieving now are caused primarily by street drugs which are often contaminated and mixed with other drugs,” he said.

“The police know they cannot arrest their way out of this situation, nor are we going to imprison the 60,000 Scots who are experiencing a drug problem. 

“What we need to do is help people address the issues they have in their lives; that means them being allowed and supported to engage with the health and other services they require.”

Earlier this year the Home Office blocked attempts by Glasgow City Council to open a drug consumption room as a harm reduction measure, but acknowledged evidence it could prove effective.

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