Number of people killed by drugs soars to 10-year high
THE number of people dying from drugs in Lothian has reached a ten-year high, new figures revealed today.
While drug-related deaths across Scotland fell by six per cent, the statistics for Lothian showed a 58 per cent increase - from 36 deaths in 2004 to 57 last year.
And the biggest increase was in deaths involving methadone and diazepam.
Critics of the methadone programme, designed to wean heroin addicts off their habit, claimed the figures underlined the need for a rethink of its use.
Deaths in Lothian involving methadone soared from seven to 19 and diazepam-related deaths more than doubled from nine to 22.
The news comes after an Evening News study found a growing trend for addicts turning to the heroin substitute.
Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie said the increase in methadone-related deaths in Lothian was alarming.
She said: "Methadone was supposed to be a treatment to help addicts. These figures underline the need for a new strategy based on abstinence. Methadone has a part to play, but it must not be the only treatment in town."
Tom Wood, head of the Edinburgh Drugs and Alcohol Action Team, said the rise in Lothian's drugs toll was "disappointing and very sobering".
He said many of the people whose deaths were linked to methadone were taking the drug on prescription. "For many of them, it was not an illegal substance," he said.
"Most people don't die from one drug alone. Most of them die from a cocktail of drugs, which may include methadone and alcohol."
He pointed out the use of methadone for heroin addicts was currently under review, but he said research showed the drug was hugely beneficial where it was used appropriately.
"We have to be very careful we do not throw the baby out with the bath water. We need to concentrate on getting packages of care and intervention which are appropriate for individuals."
Lothian's drugs death figures were the highest since 1996.
And Lothian's rise of 21 contrasted with reductions of 40 in Greater Glasgow & Clyde and 16 in Grampian.
Across Scotland, the number of drug-related deaths fell to its lowest since 1998. There were 336 drug deaths in 2005 - down by 20 from the previous year and 46 fewer than in 2003. But cocaine deaths rose from 36 to 44.
Mr Wood, former deputy chief constable of Lothian & Borders, said an analysis of drug-related deaths in the area showed the average age was 37, and many were people who had been long-term addicts.
He said: "These statistics and analysis both challenge and reinforce some of our views of drug use. We picture in our minds the tragic teenager who dies after a first flirtation with deadly substances, In fact we typically see a sad group of addicts who year on year pay the price of addiction, having seen out only half their lifespan. Their chronic multi-drug and alcohol abuse is often accompanied by medical conditions you would associate with people twice their age."
And he said the lesson was that agencies had to concentrate efforts on stopping people getting hooked on drugs in the first place.
"These figures are a bleak reminder of the price paid for chronic addiction, and lead to the inevitable conclusion that late interventions are difficult and of limited success. For many of the people who died of chronic alcohol /drug use in 2005, the battle was lost years ago.
"This study reinforces my view that robust early interventions and good prevention programmes are more likely to succeed in helping these people free themselves of their habits, especially in an age which is seeing a growing trend in polydrug use"
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 24 mph
Wind direction: North west