New 'heartbreaking' figures on Scottish drug deaths expected to show record high

Figures on drug deaths in Scotland released on Tuesday are likely to be ‘heartbreaking’, opposition parties have warned.

Picture : John Devlin.
Picture : John Devlin.

The figures, which will show the number of drug-related deaths in Scotland in 2019, will be released by National Records of Scotland on Tuesday.

Scotland has the highest drug death rate in the EU, and the figures are expected to increase on 2018, when there were 1,187 deaths.

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This was a more than 250 increase on the previous year.

Liberal Democrats health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton, who said Scotland's drug death "emergency" is the worst in Europe and four times worse than in England and Wales. PA Photo.

There are far more drug-related deaths among men than among women, and the most affected areas include Glasgow, the Lothians, Lanarkshire and Tayside.

Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton said Tuesday’s figures are likely to be “horrifying”, and accused the Scottish Government of failing to make progress on the issue.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “Another year has slipped by without discernible progress and thousands of people are still at serious risk.

“On the eve of what will likely be a fresh set of horrifying statistics on Scotland’s drug deaths, we are calling on the Government to take quick steps to address this emergency.

“Scotland cannot tolerate more tragedies because neither the Scottish nor the UK Government will act on a scale that matches the evidence in front of them.”

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He added: “Our drug death rate puts our country to shame.

“Drug experts are clear that the Scottish Government has a range of powers that it could use to tackle this crisis now.

“Scotland needs to turn a corner. A combination of pre-emptive measures and compassionate treatment could make that happen.”

The Scottish Conservatives have backed calls for a ring-fences £20 million Scottish Recovery Fund to restore residential rehabilitation programmes to previous levels, debilitated by both spending cuts and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Leader Douglas Ross highlighted the need for a rapid extension of rehab beds and recovery services across Scotland.

“Thousands of people are tragically dying each and every year. The loss those families feel is made even worse by the fact that the deaths are avoidable,” he said.

“The Scottish Government is in full control of health in Scotland and there is broad consensus among recovery experts that increasing rehab beds will save lives. Where there is agreement, we must work together to address this crisis.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have invested almost £895 million to tackle problem alcohol and drug use since 2008, and the total financial resource is higher including contributions from the NHS and other statutory partners.

“We want to ensure everyone who requires drug and alcohol treatment has access to it and our budget commits a further £20 million to reduce the harm caused by drugs.

“This means the total Scottish Government spend on drugs and alcohol in 2020/21 will be up to £95.3 million.

“Our alcohol and drug strategy includes an eight-point treatment plan that outlines ways to improve access to effective services and interventions.

“This includes the need for assertive outreach and ensuring the provision of a wide range of harm reduction interventions that are accessible to those most at risk.”

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