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Increase in north-east suspected drugs deaths 'appalling'

By Alan Beresford

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WHILE suspected drugs deaths fell slightly across Scotland in the first half of this year, they remain at a similar level to the same period in 2020.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast SNP MSP Karen Adam.
Banffshire and Buchan Coast SNP MSP Karen Adam.

A publication of statistics for the first half of 2021 shows a small decrease (1per cent) on the same period last year, though the Minister for Drugs Policy has made clear the figure of 722 remains unacceptably high.

With the figures remaining broadly similar, this could suggest the level of suspected drugs deaths could be as high or higher than 2020

However, there have been 59 drug deaths across the north-east so far this year – 13 more than this time last year.

As work continues to get more people into treatment, £2.3 million is being allocated to Health Improvement Scotland (HIS) over the next three years to enable them to support NHS boards in developing an integrated approach to the delivery of mental health and substance use services.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast SNP MSP Karen Adam described the figures as "appalling" and said the Scottish Government needed more powers in order to tackle the root causes of drug addiction.

“The latest figures on drug deaths are appalling," she continued.

"I know Angela Constance, Minister for Drug Policy, is taking an array of actions to tackle the public health emergency in relation to drug deaths and substance misuse.

“The Scottish Government are investing over £2 million for Health Improvement Scotland which they expect will members of the public who are misusing substances are treated for both their physical addiction and their mental health needs too.

“Stigma reduction plays a big part of this in society and it’s important we increase awareness on the impact of substance misuse but also tackling the root cause as to why and how people are hooked into addiction.

“While the actions of the Scottish Government are welcome, this also highlights why the Scottish Parliament urgently needs more powers at our disposal so that we can fully address the root cause of the issue. Reserved policy that is tailored to the needs of people elsewhere in the UK is often not compatible with the combination of measures needed in Scotland to fully address issues such as the drug deaths pubic health crisis we are currently facing here.”

Scottish Conservative leader and Highlands and Islands MSP Douglas Ross acused First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of "taking her eye off the ball" when it came to tackling drug deaths and urged the Holyrood to back the Tory plans for a Right to Recovery Bill.

Scottish Conservative Party leader and Highlands and Islands MSP Douglas Ross. Picture: James Mackenzie
Scottish Conservative Party leader and Highlands and Islands MSP Douglas Ross. Picture: James Mackenzie

He said: “These new statistics are absolutely appalling and my thoughts are with everyone who has lost a loved one as a result of drugs.

“As I said when I raised these most recent figures with the First Minister; they are appalling and heart-breaking in equal measure.

“On current trends, Scotland is on track to hit yet another record high number of drug deaths this year.

“Nicola Sturgeon shamefully took her eye off the ball in tackling the crisis, but still the problem is getting worse. She is out of touch with the reality of the scourge of drugs that are far too rife in our communities.

“Vulnerable people still have nowhere to routinely turn to for help. If Nicola Sturgeon wants the number of people dying from drugs to fall, she should urgently back Scottish Conservative plans for a Right to Recovery Bill.

“Our proposals are backed by frontline experts and will guarantee those who need treatment will get it.”

A Right to Recovery Bill would seek guarantee everyone gets the treatment they need.

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