Drug deaths down again but Scotland still worst in Europe
Scotland's drug-related death toll remains "unacceptably high" experts have warned, despite having fallen two years in a row.
There were 485 fatalities in 2010 as a result of drug use, official figures showed yesterday, down from 545 in 2009 and 574 the year before.
The rate in Scotland, though, is about seven times the European average.
David Liddell, director of Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF), said the fall in deaths last year was "encouraging." But he added: "Scotland's death toll from drug problems remains unacceptably high.
"If you look at the rate of drug-related deaths among the drug-using population, Scotland has similar rates to our European neighbours.
"But if you look at the rate of drug-related deaths compared to the overall population, Scottish people are seven times more likely to die from a drug-related death than their European counterparts."
Figures from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction show thatScotland has the highest average rate of drug-related deaths in Europe.
On average, 21 out of every million working-age adults in Europe die as a result of drug- related deaths - in Scotland there are an average of 140 drug-related deaths per million of the working-age population.
"That's seven times the European average rate - and the highest rate of its kind in Europe," Mr Liddell added.
An estimated 55,000 people in Scotland have drug problems and the SDF wants to see speedy- access "high quality" treatment and care services.
The figures yesterday showed that three-quarters of those who died were men.
Over half the deaths were linked to heroin or morphine, although these are also down significantly, from 322 to 254. Greater Glasgow and Clyde accounted for just over a third of the deaths, while 15 per cent were in Lothian.
Methadone was implicated in, or potentially contributed to, 174 deaths, and alcohol was involved in 127.
Community safety minister Roseanna Cunningham said: "These figures represent 485 lives lost to families and communities across Scotland, and while I welcome the news of a further decrease, any death is one too many.
"Tackling drugs misuse is a complex issue which the Scottish Government has been working hard to address. With more than half of deaths due to heroin and morphine in 2010, it is clear serious drug misuse remains a significant problem.
"However, our national drugs strategy offers a framework to tackle Scotland's drug misuse through action, not words."
Ms Cunningham said 28.6 million had been invested in frontline drug treatment services in 2011-12.Dr Roy Robertson, chairman of the National Forum on Drug-Related Deaths, said a database had been set up to help study the causes of the deaths.
"One of the very startling findings, I think, is that 80 per cent of the people who died, who were known to this database, were not in treatment - a shocking statistic," he said.
Tory deputy leader Murdo Fraser said the high level of methadone deaths showed too many addicts were "parked" on the heroin recovery substance.
"The attempts of the past decade to merely manage the problem, based on harm reduction and this evident over-reliance on methadone, just have not worked," he said.
"The challenge now is to expand the range of rehabilitation services on offer and move towards recovery."
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