Rise in drug-related deaths in Moray
The number of drug-related deaths in Moray has more than doubled in the last year.
Figures from the National Records of Scotland show there were 17 drug deaths in the area in 2018 compared to 7 the year before.
That compares to 10 in both 2015 and 2016, 2 in 2014 and 5 in 2013.
The 2018 figures for the Moray area are the highest since records began in 1996, mirroring the national picture.
Across Scotland, the number soared to 1187 last year. That's up 27 per cent on 2017.
And the rate is now higher than that reported for any other EU country.
In Moray, 13 of those who died in 2018 were male and the 25-34 and 35-44 age groups were the most affected.
Earlier this month, the Scottish government formed a task force to tackle the rising number of drug deaths.
MSP Richard Lochhead welcomed its creation, describing the figures as a "tragic reminder" that substance misuse is a major problem in all parts of Scotland.
Mr Lochhead said: "It is quite clear that we’re facing a national emergency in relation to drug use and Moray is not immune."
He said the task force would look at the main causes of drug related deaths and what changes to the law could help save lives.
"But we also need the UK Government to act to allow the implementation of a public health response," he added.
"If they won’t do that they should devolve power to the Scottish Parliament so we can take action to save lives in Moray and across the country."
Scottish Green Party MSP John Finnie, whose Highlands and Island's constituency includes Moray, called for immediate action.
Mr Finnie said: "We’ve known for some time that Scotland is in the grip of a drugs death emergency but these figures are still absolutely shocking and show that families in Moray are dealing with the effects of this crisis.
"Every single one of these deaths is a tragedy. When it comes to drugs, criminalisation has caused more harm than it can claim to have prevented. The ‘war on drugs’ approach has self-evidently failed. Addiction is better tackled by trained medical professionals, not with the strong arm of the law. If we are to avoid seeing thousands more lives tragically lost then both the UK and Scottish Governments must commit to immediately adopting an evidence-based, public health approach."