Scottish drug deaths hit a 22-year high

Deaths from drug misuse have been creeping higher every year in Scotland as the country struggles to deal with its opioid crisis

Drug deaths in Scotland have hit a record high, with statistics from the National Records of Scotland recording 934 drug-related deaths recorded in 2017. This number is up 8 per cent on 2016 and more than double the 2007 total of 455 as well, making it the highest since figures were first collated in 1996.

The figures show a steady rise in deaths since 2013, with Scotland’s drug death rate now roughly two and a half times higher than the UK total and higher than those reported for all the EU countries.

The majority of deaths (87 per cent) were caused by opioids such as heroin, morphine and methadone, with males making up 70 per cent of deaths and those aged 35-44 accounting for 39 per cent.

Charities in Glasgow have previously campaigned for a drug consumption room to battle against methadone misuse (with a third of the deaths happening in the Greater Glasgow area) but plans were blocked earlier this year when the Lord Advocate, the chief legal officer of Scotland argued that no exemption from the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 could be made.

New Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick offered his “deepest condolences” to families and friends of the people behind the figures, and outlined the government’s plans to update the ‘Road to Recovery’ drugs strategy first launched in 2008.

“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.

David Lidell the CEO of the Scottish Drugs Forum said in a statement that the deaths showed “a staggering weight carried by families and communities and the winter Scottish nation”.

“Scots are more than five times more likely to die from drugs than in a road traffic accident and yet these deaths are entirely preventable. We know how to prevent drug-related deaths – and yet we don’t do all that we could to prevent them,” he said.

Lidell called for children, families and communities to be protected by ensuring proper help is available for substance users.

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