Drug-mix warning as 81 die in Lothian
THERE have been fresh warnings over the danger of mixing drugs as the latest death toll showed 81 lives were lost in the Lothians last year.
The statistics show there was actually a slight drop in drug-related deaths locally - from 94 in 2008 - but health chiefs are concerned by the number of victims who had more than one substance recorded on their death certificate.
The new figures also show a continuing trend of more deaths attributed to the heroin substitute methadone in Edinburgh than to the drug itself.
The General Register Office for Scotland, which unveiled the statistics, said despite the falling number of deaths nationwide, the long-term pattern showed victims were still on the rise.
People dabbling regularly in more than one type of drug - including alcohol - have been highlighted as the most at-risk, while charities said access to treatment for addiction should be the priority.
John Arthur, director of the Capital-based Crew 2000 drugs support charity, said: "I'm glad the numbers have dropped, but it's still too much.
"Early intervention is key. The sooner someone seeks help, the sooner they need to get it because a lot of damage can occur in that time frame.
"The real problem is people mixing drugs. We have a terrible polydrugs culture in Scotland. Education and new strategies are key to solving that."
The report showed 55 of the 81 deaths came from the direct abuse of drugs, while there were five intentional overdoses and four accidental poisonings. A total of 17 of the cases from 2009 were not determined.
Around 70 death certificates listed methadone and/or heroin, while benzodiazepines - which include drugs such as temazepam - was also noted on dozens of deaths. Alcohol was registered in 23 cases, and cocaine, ecstasy and amphetamines also featured. The Lothians rate is lower than the Scottish average.
In Edinburgh, the 20 deaths caused by methadone were two more than those brought on by heroin.
Dr Angus Bancroft, a senior lecturer in social and political science at Edinburgh University, said it was clear the average age of a heroin addict was rising, while the debate over the merits of methadone was also intensifying.
He said: "What we are seeing is rising number of addicts in their 30s and 40s, which would naturally impact on the figures.
"It is widely recognised that methadone is not a cure. It can stabilise people and help take them off heroin itself, but methadone has its dangers too.
"People often take it along with heroin or other drugs, and the real danger emerges in polydrug users, who combine drugs and alcohol as well."
Community safety minister Fergus Ewing said: "These figures published remind us that drug misuse destroys lives and the impact is felt far beyond the individual user."
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 3 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West