Drug related deaths in Scotland have remained alarmingly high as 581 people died last year due to narcotics. The number is just three less than the all time highest recorded number of fatalities, 584, in 2011.
Methadone addiction remains the highest killer with 237 fatalities linked to the drug last year, despite falling from 275 deaths the year before. Heroin is the other main contributor, linked to a total of 221 fatalities, an increase of 15 from the previous year.
David Liddell, director of Scottish Drugs Forum, said: “The continued high level of drug related deaths in Scotland highlights the on-going need to reduce fatalities especially among opiate (heroin) users, who remain – by far – the group most likely to die from drug use in Scotland.
“The high level of deaths among older opiate users – 63 percent of all deaths are among people aged 35 and over – remains a significant concern and re-emphasises the need for services to be more targeted towards the needs of this group of people, who are likely to have a range of complex needs.”
Graeme Pearson, Scottish Labour’s justice spokesman, said: “I welcome the fall in deaths related to drugs from the record high we had last year.
“However, 581 people losing their life from drug misuse is appalling, as is the fact that people are combining drugs, including methadone, to create a lethal cocktail.
“The Scottish Government need to tackle this head on with action, not more reports and rhetoric.
“Under the SNP, the health service is struggling to meet demand and drug abuse is adding to the strain.
“Scotland is out of step with other European countries in failing to reduce drug addiction across the country.
“We need leadership from government ministers directing effective action that provides education and support for those involved in drugs and help for the families living alongside addiction. We need it now.”
Roseanna Cunningham, Community Safety Minister, said: “First and foremost, we must recognise that these figures published today represent 581 loved ones lost by friends and families across Scotland and each of these deaths is a tragedy.
“The Scottish Government is dealing with a legacy of drug misuse which stretches back decades and, as in previous years, the statistics published today show that many of these deaths are older drug users who have become increasingly unwell throughout the years.”
Despite the high level of drug related deaths in Scotland the introduction of home overdose kits have saved the lives of approximately 365 people since introduction two years ago by the Scottish government. Tackling Scotland’s drug problem is key to the SNP-led government at Holyrood who have high hopes and expectations of improving national health.
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