Huge rise in Scottish drug deaths was avoidable, says Transform

By agency reporter
July 3, 2018

Today (3 July 2018) the latest statistics on drug-related deaths in Scotland were published. 934 drug-related deaths were registered in Scotland in 2017, 66 more deaths, (eight  per cent more) than in 2016. This was a record level for the fourth year in a row, and more than double the figure for 2007. At 279 deaths per million people (age 16-64), Scotland’s drug death rate is now nearly fifty times that of Portugal’s, at less than six deaths per million.

Most drug-related deaths involve more than one substance. Heroin was implicated in 50 per cent of the total - 470 deaths, similar to last year’s 473.

The number of deaths was more than ever before for:

  • 815 deaths from Opiates (e.g. heroin/morphine) or synthetic opioids (e.g.methadone/fentanyl) as a group (previous highest 766 in 2016)
  • 552 deaths from Benzodiazepines as a group (previous highest 426 in 2016)
  • 176 deaths from Cocaine (previous highest 123 in 2016)
  • 439 deaths from Methadone (previous highest 362 in 2016).

Martin Powell, from Transform Drug Policy Foundation said; “Scotland’s drug death rate is now almost 50 times that of Portugal – which massively reduced deaths by decriminalising people who use drugs, and putting health, not punishment at the heart of their approach. Scotland’s drug death tragedy is also avoidable, if the UK and Scottish governments just follow the advice of the Home Office’s own expert panel – the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. And that means end the criminalisation of people who use drugs, introduce safer drug consumption rooms, prescribe heroin to those with a clinical need, and properly fund treatment. Then Scotland need never be the drug death capital of Europe again. 

"And right now Home Secretary Sajid Javid must stop blocking Glasgow NHS’s plans for a safer drug consumption room – where people can take illegal drugs under supervision.  Longer term, to protect our communities we will need to legally regulate drug supply to reduce crime, and steer people towards safer products.”

Jolene Crawford of the Anyone’s Child Project said, "It is with a very heavy heart that I read the news of drug deaths in Scotland rising yet again to new record highs, which also means record numbers of families enduring the agony of losing a loved one, as our family did. The evidence proves that the Scottish Government has the potential to prevent many of these deaths, as does the UK Government, and I wonder, how many more must die before real action is taken?”

The UK government’s official advisers, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, have recommended drug consumption rooms, heroin prescribing, increased funding for treatment and not criminalising users on a number of occasions. No one has ever died from an overdose, anywhere in the world, in a supervised drug consumption room.

* Read the Advisory Council report on the Misuse of Drugs Reducing opioid-related deaths in the UK  here 

* Read the National Records of Scotland 2017 drug related deaths statistics here

* Transform


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