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North drugs deaths figures branded 'appalling'

By Alan Beresford

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

Richard Lochhead, SNP MSP for Moray. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Richard Lochhead, SNP MSP for Moray. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

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.

Richard Lochhead, the Moray SNP MSP for Moray, underlined that reducing drugs deaths remained an "absolute priority" for the Scottish Government.

“These devastating figures demonstrate the scale of this public health emergency in Scotland and my thoughts go out to all of those who have lost a loved one to drug misuse.

“The Scottish Government is investing £250 million in front line services and is taking a wide range of actions to reduce drug related deaths in Scotland. This includes work to create a more integrated approach to treatment and ensuring that people are treated for both their mental health and their physical health addiction.

“There is no shying away from the scale of the challenge we face but reducing the number of drug related deaths in Scotland is an absolute priority for the Scottish Government.”

Scottish Conservative leader and Highlands and Islands MSP Douglas Rosaccuseded 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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