Scotland 'going backwards' in tackling drug deaths

A leading campaign group has warned that Scotland is now "going backwards" with its efforts on tackling drug deaths a year after it was revealed the country has the highest-rate in Europe.

Scotland is 'going backwards' in efforts to tackle drug deaths
Scotland is 'going backwards' in efforts to tackle drug deaths

Last summer Faces & Voices of Recovery UK (FAVOR UK) launched the ‘You Keep Talking, We Keep Dying’ campaign after the grim statistic of drug deaths in the country was revealed.

But just a few weeks ago, Police Scotland superintendent Tim Ross said it appeared that there has been a “slight increase” in drug death numbers, which already hit a record high of 1,187 deaths in 2018.

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Favor CEO Annemarie Ward believes the drug death crisis is “Scotland’s shame” and is only going to get worse unless the Scottish and UK Governments take urgent action.

At their AGM this Friday FAVOR UK will highlight that politicians have not done enough in the last year and the pandemic has reversed what little progress had been made.

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‘A national crisis’: Drug-related deaths in Scotland at highest ever level

Annemarie Ward, FAVOR UK CEO, said: “We fully understand that governments have rightly been focussed on tackling the Covid pandemic.

“But unless urgent action is taken, any progress on drug deaths will be lost. All we are hearing from the police and what we’re seeing on the ground indicates that Scotland is now going backwards.

“Even before the pandemic struck, we were seeing very little concrete action from either government.

"The Drug Death Task Force insists on pursuing the same failed options that got us into this mess, and the UK Government has failed to listen or take steps such as declaring a public health emergency.

“As FAVOR and the You Keep Talking, We Keep Dying campaign have said from the beginning, there are immediate actions we can take to start saving lives now.”

She added: “For a start, we need to fix the mess over official statistics so we have a better idea of how many people are dying and what mix of drugs are involved.

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“Then we need evidence-lead solutions, based on that data, that helps people to get well and get off alcohol and drugs.

“We need the UK Government to come to the table to discuss sensible solutions, and we need the Scottish Government to start properly funding rehabilitation and recovery programmes.

“The drug crisis is Scotland’s shame and on current trends, it’s only going to get worse.”

A report published last year by the National Records of Scotland revealed there were 1,187 drug-related deaths registered north of the Border in 2018 - an increase of 27 per cent year-on-year.

It meant, for the first time, that more Scots died from drugs than alcohol in a single year.

The Scotsman understands that figures for 2019 due to be released this summer have been delayed.

Scottish Labour health spokesperson, Monica Lennon, said: “Scotland’s drug death crisis has killed thousands of people in the last couple of years alone yet the Scottish Government continues to snub investment in lifesaving treatment.

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“Residential rehab has not been a priority for Nicola Sturgeon’s government and despite a record level of fatalities, the Lord Advocate who sits in the Cabinet has presided over a crisis in drug death investigations.

“Lengthy delays to toxicology reports have left families and public health experts in the dark. You know a public health emergency isn’t being managed properly when the state can’t even be relied on to count the dead.

“Both governments must listen to people at the sharp end of this crisis and act now because the majority of drug deaths can be prevented with the right public health interventions.”

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