Scotland’s drug-deaths highest in Europe


There has been a 27% increase in drug-related deaths registered in Scotland since 2017, figures published recently show. The statistics, published by the National Records of Scotland, provide details of 1,187 drug-related deaths that occurred in Scotland in 2018.


A widely predicted rise, this is the largest number of such deaths since records started in 1996 and more than double the figure for 2008, when 574 people died. Although the way in which such deaths are recorded varies across Europe, the latest figures show Scotland has suffered the highest death rate for any EU country and a rate nearly three times that of the UK as a whole.


Public Health Minister, Joe FitzPatrick, has reiterated calls for the UK Government to allow the Scottish Government to establish safer drug-consumption facilities to try to bring down the number of deaths occurring north of the border.


“The number of people who have lost their lives because of drug use is shocking,” the Minister said.


“It is vital this tragedy is treated as a public health issue, and we are prepared to take innovative and bold measures in order to save the lives of those most at risk.


“Last week, I gave evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee and I asked for help in persuading the UK Government to either act now to enable us to implement a range of public health-focused responses – including the introduction of supervised drug consumption facilities – or devolve the power to the Scottish Parliament so that we can act.”


Earlier this month, Professor Catriona Matheson – a leading drugs expert at the University of Stirling was appointed by the Scottish Government as chair of a new taskforce to combat the rising numbers of deaths linked to substance misuse.


“I want to ensure that the work of the new taskforce which I have established is driven by strong evidence and the voices of those with experience of using drugs, and their families, are heard,” continued Mr FitzPatrick.


“I am determined to shape our services in every walk of life to prevent harm and reduce the appalling number of deaths.


“So I will give consideration to any proposals they bring forward which may help to tackle this issue and, ultimately, save lives.”


Appearing before the Westminster Scottish Affairs Committee this month, the Public Health Minister said among the options the task force would consider, he fully expected decriminalisation to be included.


The largest proportion of deaths occurred within NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde – 394 – while 152 died within NHS Lothian, 130 in NHS Lanarkshire, and 109 in NHS Tayside.


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