Drug deaths: Shameful new figures show Scotland must change – Scotsman comment

In 1996, the deaths of 244 people were recorded as drug-related. By 2013, that number had risen to 527 and now the latest figures, for 2019, show 1,264 people lost their lives to heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, amphetamines and other such substances.

Evidence of drug use, like this discarded paraphernalia in a lane in Glasgow, pictured yesterday, is not hard to find (Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)
Evidence of drug use, like this discarded paraphernalia in a lane in Glasgow, pictured yesterday, is not hard to find (Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)

This means that Scotland’s drug-death rate is now three-and-a-half times greater than the UK’s and the highest in Europe by a considerable margin.

So, make no mistake, Scotland has a particular problem and there is something wrong with the society we have built.

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Drug deaths in Scotland increase again as country remains worst in Europe

There will probably always be people who are drawn to drugs for one reason or another, even though whatever pleasure these substances provide all-too-often comes with a much higher cost – the misery of a human mind enslaved to a chemical, poverty, ill-health and, as these figures show, death. According to the National Records of Scotland report, it is estimated that an average of about 13 out of every 1,000 ‘problem’ drug users in Scotland died each year between 2013 and 2017.

Andrew Horne, of We Are With You, a drug, alcohol and mental health charity, said: “People who develop an issue with drugs are often vilified, but behind these numbers are stories of extreme trauma and resilience, of brave people who were dealt a difficult hand and did their best to survive, of people who were let down by their society.”

Each of us has a duty to take personal responsibility for our own lives and it is up to us to make the right choices, to do the right thing.

However, it is clear the government must do more to prevent so many people’s lives from being cut short in this way. And, earlier this month, the Scottish Drug Deaths Taskforce published new plans on how to try to reduce the death toll, by improving the way we deal with potentially fatal overdoses, providing better help for high-risk drug users, and finding ways to help vulnerable people at risk of developing this dangerous habit.

That said, the fact that the figures in Scotland are so much greater than the rest of the UK and countries in the EU – to our shame – means this is a problem that society as a whole, not just politicians and the authorities, must find ways to address. We simply must do better.

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