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by Louise Wilson
14 December 2021
Over 1,000 drug-deaths in first nine months of 2021

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Over 1,000 drug-deaths in first nine months of 2021

Over 1,000 people have died from a suspected drug overdose in the first nine months of 2021.

But this is slightly down on the same period last year, with the third quarter showing an even larger decrease when compared with Q3 of 2020.

Between January and September of this year, Police Scotland recorded 1,007 suspected drug-related deaths compared to 1,047 between January and September of 2020 (4 per cent lower).

And between July and September there were 285 suspected drug deaths, 13 per cent fewer than the previous quarter and 10 per cent less than the same period last year.

Drugs minister Angela Constance welcomed the progress but added drug deaths were “still far too high”.

She will address the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday afternoon to update MSPs on addiction treatment options, including progress on the medication-assisted treatment standards which were published in May.

These standards are designed to ensure people receive help the same day they ask for it.

They are to be embedded in all services by April 2022.

Last year saw record-breaking numbers of drug deaths in Scotland, with 1,339 Scots losing their lives, prompting the Scottish Government to look at new ways to tackle the issue.

A new residential rehabilitation centre in North Ayrshire was announced in August, while research is underway into the use of street benzos, the risks of methadone, and whether alcohol and drugs services should become part of the new national care service.

Expressing sympathy to those who have lost loved ones to drugs this year, Constance said: “While there has been a slight downturn in the number of suspected drug deaths, it is still far too high, and I am clear there is much hard work and many challenges ahead if we are to truly turn the tide on this emergency.”

“The £250m we are investing in tackling this public health emergency will make a difference. I am working to ensure it reaches front-line services as quickly as possible and that every single penny will count as we continue to prioritise our efforts to turn this crisis around,” she added.

These figures are based on information collected by police who suspect the involvement of illicit substances when conducting initial inquiries at the scene of a death.

Actual numbers, which are confirmed by the National Records of Scotland each year, may differ.

Labour's drugs spokesperson Claire Baker said: “I do hope the recent drop we see in this report marks the start of some real improvement, but the fact remains the long-term trend is still moving upward, and progress has been far too slow tackling that.

“We need faster and more decisive action to save lives and get people the help they need.

“The SNP must press ahead to deliver safe consumption rooms as part of a package of harm reduction policies. We also need to invest in treatment and support services so that that everyone can access the help they need, when they need it."

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