Drugs deaths situation remains ‘unacceptable’

Drugs deaths situation remains ‘unacceptable’

Angela Constance

The latest National Records of Scotland statistics show 1,330 people lost their lives to drugs in 2021 – a decrease of only one per cent on the previous year.

A national mission was announced in January 2021 to tackle rising death deaths in Scotland with additional funding of £250 million over the course of this Parliament.

The first year of the national mission has seen the introduction of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) Standards, the expansion of residential rehabilitation provision, the setting of a new treatment target, increased funding to community and grass-roots organisations and the laying of ground work for innovation such as Safer Drug Consumption Facilities.

Drugs Secretary Angela Constance said: “Scotland suffers a terrible toll from drug deaths, leaving families grieving and in pain and my heart goes out to all those affected by the death of a loved one through drugs.

“These latest statistics provide yet more heart-breaking reading, and the situation remains unacceptable. While there is so much more work to do, every life saved means one less family grieving and I am determined we can use this halt in the upward trend of recent years as a platform for real change.

“My focus now is on taking action and delivering new investment to improve services and get more people into the treatment which works for them. Residential rehabilitation is one of a range of treatment options available and today I am visiting River Garden Auchincruive to speak to residents and staff about the services provided. Later I will be meeting some families affected by a loved one’s drug use and asking what more we can do to help.

“I am concerned about the rise in deaths among women and will look to expand on current steps we are taking including the provision of two Mother and Child Residential Recovery Houses which will enable women to receive support while staying with their children.

“Despite regional differences, we are focused on a national mission and I’ll continue to use all the powers at my disposal, including holding local leaders to account in implementing the MAT standards, to drive improvements across Scotland.

“We are already implementing many of the recommendations from The Drug Deaths Taskforce, which issued its final recommendations last week, and I will report back on further actions to Parliament.

“In the first year of the National Mission we built the foundations for change. Now, with the backing of £250 million over the course of this Parliament, we will deliver on those foundations and our new Oversight Group will provide scrutiny, challenge and expert advice on the National Mission as we continue our efforts to improve and save lives.”

Scottish Conservative leader, Douglas Ross, said the drug death figures were “off-the-scale bad” and “so uniquely awful” compared to other European countries.

He added: “The enormity of this national emergency is laid bare in this heart-breaking toll of fatalities. These figures are a badge of shame for Nicola Sturgeon, who has presided over a huge escalation in Scotland’s drug-deaths epidemic.”

Scottish Labour’s drug policy spokesperson, Claire Baker, said the “utterly shameful figures” indicated the government was not making nearly enough progress.

She added: “We cannot call something a public health emergency if we don’t respond with emergency action.

“They [the SNP] can start by investing in woefully underfunded drug and alcohol services, which they cut to the bone despite warnings, and by delivering on the other recommendations of the Scottish Drug Death Taskforce.”

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