Inaction branded ‘shameful’ as Scottish drug-death rate rises to one of highest in developed world

By agency reporter
July 16, 2019

Today (16 July 2019) the latest statistics on drug-related deaths were published by National Records for Scotland. They reveal that 1187 drug-related deaths were registered in Scotland in 2018, 253 more than in 2017, a 27 per cent increase.

This was a record level for the fifth year in a row, and more than double the figure for 2007. At 21.98 deaths per hundred thousand people, Scotland’s drug death rate is now:

  • The highest drug death rate in the EU
  • A higher drug death rate than that of the USA (21.7 per 100k in 2017)
  • Over fifty times that of Portugal’s (at less than 0.4 deaths per 100k in 2016 )

Dr James Nicholls, CEO of Transform Drug Policy Foundation said: “Scotland’s record drug deaths are an avoidable tragedy, and the failure of politicians in Westminster and Holyrood to act is simply shameful. This crisis is a consequence of policies they support, and continue to impose, despite deaths increasing year after year. Bereaved families may wonder why the UK drugs minister won’t visit Scotland to better understand why their loved ones died, or appear before Scottish MPs to justify her government’s failed approach. This has to change.

"The UK Home Office must allow Scotland to adopt a health-lead approach, including allowing supervised drug consumption rooms, in order to tackle the crisis. Growing calls for the decriminalisation of people who use drugs in Scotland should also be heeded, as we know from Portugal that this can reduce deaths. No part of the UK should be the drug-death capital of Europe - let alone of the developed world. It is in the hands of the UK and Scottish Governments to avert this catastrophe, and they need to act now.”

Andy Cowan of the campaign Anyone’s Child - Families for Safer Drug Control, said: “I’m the father of a young man from Livingstone whose life was tragically cut short by a drug overdose. These new statistics show once again that many of our people across all ages and social classes are buying unsafe, and in many cases deadly, drugs from criminals, and then consuming them without any advice or supervision. This is resulting in record numbers of deaths and misery for families. And all because our deep prejudice against the use of some drugs for recreational purposes blinds us to the answer.

"Were we to be bolder, we would prioritise the safety of our citizens above our prejudice. We would seize control of the entire manufacture and distribution of drugs from criminal cartels, by legalising their production, supply and use, while putting in place strict regulation to minimise harm. In other words, to end the failed 'war on drugs' and for the first time embark on a compassionate new approach aimed at saving lives.”

In Portugal deaths fell dramatically across all ages after it decriminalised possession of drugs in 2001, encouraging people to seek help, and putting the money saved into treatment.

The UK government’s official advisers, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, has recommended drug consumption rooms, heroin prescribing, increased funding for treatment and not criminalising users on a number of occasions.

* Read Reducing opioid-related deaths in the UK by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs here

* Anyone’s Child - Families for Safer Drug Control https://anyoneschild.org/

* Transform Drug Policy Foundation is a UK based think tank campaigning for effective drug policy https://transformdrugs.org/


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