Drug Related Deaths – Scotland

In the past year, Scotland’s drug related deaths have increased dramatically by 27%. Almost levelling the fatality rate per capita with the US. The latest figures showed the majority of fatalities was from the over 35 age group, known as the “Trainspotting generation”.

Westminster currently hold the power on the Misuse of Drugs Act, which Scotland believes should be relaxed as a method of controlling the issue in the country. One of Scotland’s most senior police officers has described the Misuse of Drugs Act as a relic that was “ripe for reform”. The chair of the Scottish government’s task force on drug deaths, Catriona Matheson believes that treatment challenges should be investigates alongside decriminalisation. “I understand why decriminalisation grabs most attention, but legislation, criminal justice, healthcare and public attitudes are intertwined”.

There is also a significant increase in the number of fatalities amongst the under 35 age group. These deaths are heavily linked to poly-drug use, including the relatively newly available drug named “street benzodiazepines”.

The lead pharmacist for addiction services at the city’s health and social care partnership, Dr Carole Hunter said: “The major problem for Glasgow is heroin and illicit benzos like etizolam or street Valium, which have never been cheaper or more available”. International trials have shown that medicinal heroin can be an effective treatment for a number of opioid users who do not respond to regular methods of treatment. Hunter proposes opening an enhanced drug treatment centre in Glasgow for this medicinal heroin to be administered under supervision.

Dave Liddell, chief executive of Scottish Drugs Forum stated. “Neither decriminalisation or one drug consumption room in Glasgow is going to impact substantially on the death rate. The key focus needs to be on improving our drug treatment and care services. We need to look at access to opioid replacement therapy. Only 40% of people with a drug problem in Scotland are currently in treatment, compared with far higher numbers in England and many countries in England”.

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