Drug hospital stays triple in two decades in Scotland

The rate of drug-related hospital stays per population in Scotland has tripled in the past two decades.

There were 282 drug-related hospital stays per 100,000 people in 2019/20, the latest figures from Public Health Scotland Show. In 1997/98, this figure was 88 per 100,000.

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton called the figures a “scandal”, warning that a “damaging legacy of underfunding” will have negative effects for years to come.

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It comes ahead of a Scottish Parliament debate on tackling drug-related deaths to be held on Thursday.

The new figures showed 14,976 drug-related hospital stays in 2019/20, of which 86 per cent were in general acute hospitals and 14 per cent were in psychiatric hospitals.

Just under half of stays were as a result of opioids. The rate of opioid-related stays has quadrupled since 1996/97.

About half of the patients with a drug-related hospital stay lived in the most deprived areas in Scotland.

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The drug-related patient rate for under 25-year-olds was 99 patients per 100,000 population. This rate has gradually increased since 2012/13 (55 per 100,000 population).

Public Health Scotland also said it had seen a “notable increase” in the percentage of psychiatric hospital stays attributed to cannabinoids in recent years.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “These figures show that the damaging legacy of underfunding will see ripple effects for years to come. The drugs deaths scandal sadly looks set to continue.

“It took too long for the Scottish Government to step up and see the deadly reality of Scotland’s drugs deaths crisis. Pathways for support were shut down.

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"People and families have been scarred by these problems and drained by their attempts to seek help at depleted local facilities. There will be a legacy of harm for years to come.

“The debate in Parliament this Thursday must be used as an opportunity to show that the drift on this key public health emergency is finally at an end.

"We need to see concrete actions, like a Scotland-wide network for the provision of heroin assisted treatment and a clear commitment to the principle of diversion.

“The new minister must move quickly to turn this around.”

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