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by Kirsteen Paterson
21 November 2022
Scotland's drugs deaths crisis 'forgotten', campaigners claim

Favor CEO Annemarie Ward

Scotland's drugs deaths crisis 'forgotten', campaigners claim

Scotland's drugs deaths crisis has been "forgotten", campaigners claim.

In a report set to be launched today, advocacy group the Faces and Voices of Recovery (Favor) says there has been "almost no progress" in reducing the death toll in one year.

Mortality rates are five times higher than those in England, and are the worst in Europe.

A total of 1,339 drug-related deaths were recorded in 2020, reducing by just nine in 2021. There were 562 suspected deaths in the first six months of 2022, a reduction of 160 (22 per cent) on the same period in the previous year.

Favor's report is set to be launched at Bluevale Community Centre in Glasgow one year after Nicola Sturgeon and Douglas Ross held a meeting there to discuss the issue.

It criticises a "postcode lottery" for treatment, and says some people "have been waiting years for appointments with recovery services", with a lack of mental health support and a reliance on pharmaceutical interventions "for too many people". 

Those seeking treatment "often have no agency in their own treatment", it found, and medication-assisted treatment standards "have been a let down for people seeking treatment".

Recommendations in the "Blueprint to Save Lives" paper include increased investment in community addiction charities in the most deprived areas and more referrals to residential rehabilitiation.

The Scottish Government said it funded 511 such places last year, and aims to increase this capacity to at least 1,000 by 2026.

However, Annemarie Ward, chief executive of Favor Scotland, said: "We hoped government investment and the introduction of new guidelines would improve things but unfortunately the system remains as broken today as it was a year ago.

"Our report identifies the deep-rooted problems and outlines a series of recommendations to improve how we treat people.

"It looks like the politicians have forgotten about Scotland's drug death crisis, so we hope our Blueprint to Save Lives will remind them that our communities are still suffering and they still need to act."

Drugs policy minister Angela Constance said: "Anyone who needs support should have access to whatever type of treatment or recovery works best for them.

"For some, that will be medication-assisted treatment, but it could be rehabilitation in the community or residential placements. 

"That's why we are investing £100m in residential rehabilitation over the course of this parliament."

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