New rehab facility announced as Scottish Government bid to tackle 'heart-breaking' drug deaths
A new residential rehabilitation facility to support families affected by drug use is to be created, Angela Constance has confirmed.
The national specialist service, which will be run by Phoenix Futures and based in North Ayrshire, has been announced as part of a mission to increase the provision of residential rehabilitation.
An urgent review has also been ordered on the use of so-called street benzos after the drugs were implicated in 73 per cent (974) of 1,339 drug-related deaths in 2020.
Other actions to be taken include commissioning research on the role and risk of methadone in drug-related deaths and consideration of whether alcohol and drugs services should be included in the new national care service.
In a statement to the Scottish Parliament this afternoon, Constance said the loss of life in Scotland from drug-related death is as "heart-breaking as it is unacceptable".
Constance added: "It's our national shame and I offer my condolences to all those who have lost a loved one, and my continuing commitment to do everything possible in a new national mission to turn the tide on rising drug-related deaths.
"On Friday, I attended a vigil in Glasgow. I talked to and heard from many people who have been directly affected by drug deaths – the very people who have been let down.
"Now more than ever, we need to make sure the experience of those living with problematic drug use is at the very heart of solutions going forward."
The figure for 2020 is the largest number of drug-related deaths since records began in 1996. The National Records of Scotland figures also show deaths have increased by 4.5 times in the last 20 years.
People from deprived communities were 18 times more likely to die from a drug-related death than those from the least deprived areas. Almost two thirds of deaths were people aged between 35 and 54, and more men than women died.
The Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area recorded the highest drug-related death rate in 2020, followed by Ayrshire and Arran, and then Tayside.
But Dundee City remains the drug-death capital, having the highest drug-related death rate of any local authority area.
Meanwhile, Scotland’s drug-death rate is 3.5 times higher than the UK as a whole and remains the highest of any European country.
"The 2020 annual report for the first time showed the terrible scale of inequality between our most and least deprived communities," Constance added.
The Scottish Government announced a national mission in response to the crisis in January, with an investment of £250m over the next five years to tackle the problem.
In her statement today, Constance said "no one should underestimate the scale of the challenge" that is faced, adding: "I certainly don't."
She continued: "We have made progress with other preventable deaths from alcohol, violence, some cancers. So change is possible. But change will not always be comfortable, and I make no apologies for that.
"Through these changes and the actions I'm setting out today, we can improve and save lives as part of the national mission by getting more people into the protection of treatment and recovery. This will help reduce drug deaths in Scotland.
"Presiding Officer, we have had the humility to accept what has been wrong and going forward, we will have the courage to do what is right."